The Charm of Coron

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A 45-minute plane ride from Manila can take you to the world’s best island, according to Travel + Leisure’s website . After garnering a score of 93.15 from its survey, Palawan, Philippines landed in the no. 1 spot of The World’s Best Island category published last July 2017. It feels so proud to be living in a beautiful country, envied by many. Although issues may arise like safety, I would still consider myself lucky being a local. I can freely move from islands to islands, without the fear that someone would just abduct me. If I could only purchase an island, I would have done it, and spend most of my free time there. The town of Coron in Palawan is so blessed to have such natural beauty, therefore it doesn’t need any theme park to “promote” or “beautify” the place.

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Coron, Palawan in a glimpse of 5 days and 4 nights (08.24.17-08.28.17)

I took the earliest flight possible from Manila via Cebgo. Knowing that most flights going to Coron are always full, I did not take the risk and took the first flight. Flying stand-by, can be heart-pounding so I kept my fingers crossed, and I was able to smoothly checked-in. When I asked the ground crew about the flights back to Manila on the 28th, he told me that all flights are over-booked.

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Francisco B. Reyes- Busuanga Airport

We arrived 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled time of arrival in Busuanga Airport. After getting my checked-in luggage, I took the van that will drop me off at our hotel. It was  a 30 minute ride with a picturesque view. I was wide awake at past 7 in the morning and trying to capture the beautiful scenery.

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Lush of green in Busuanga town

Our hostel was in downtown of Coron, and a few minutes away from the port. I was planning to sleep before all my colleagues arrive, but I was too early to check-in and all rooms are still occupied, so I waited for another 4 hours in the lobby and trying to get some sleep.

08.24.17- Mt. Tapyas

After several hours of waiting, we strolled around the town to look for a place to eat. First, we passed by Tea and Shake place to satisfy our cravings for shake. I got myself a mango shake while others got avocado. It costs PHP 119, and it was worth it. A few blocks away, we found a place to have our lunch. We ate at Island Boy Grill. They serve different seafoods, adobo, sisig, and a whole lot more that is budget-friendly.

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Tea and Shake place

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In the mid-afternoon, we went to hike Mt. Tapyas. It’s about 700 steps going to the peak, and it’s the second highest mountain in the town of Coron. You don’t need a tour guide to go here. Just navigate through your phone to get into the jump-off point. Once you have reached the summit, you get a nice view of the town. However, when we went there, it was a bit gloomy, and the sun was hiding behind the clouds.

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The giant cross at the summit

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We were supposed to take a dip into the Maquinit Hotspring after going up, but we all got hungry. We walked around the streets to search for a food place. We ended up eating at Altrove, where they serve pizza and pasta. The restaurant looks like an old house converted to a food place wherein you have to remove your shoes or slippers before entering.

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08.25.17- Hidden Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Smith Beach, CYC Beach 

Our wake-up call is at 7:00 am. We had our complimentary breakfast with a choice of pork tocino, chicken hotdog, longganisa and danggit with rice and coffee before leaving for our day’s activities. We were transferred by the van going to the port to meet our tour guides and boat men. We availed the ultimate tour (3-day tour) for only PHP 3400 per head, which includes boat and van round trip transfers, lunch buffet and snack, entrance fees, tour guide, and lifevests.  We pay extra to rent snorkeling gears and kayak boat.

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Hidden Lagoon

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I could have just imagined how it looks like on a sunny day

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Kayangan Lake

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Our first destination is at the Hidden Lagoon. It’s so beautiful and quiet. Then we moved to Kayangan Lake. There are about 300 steps to reach the viewing deck and lake. The line to the viewing deck was so long, so we went first to the lake. We dipped into the lake with our vests on. It was not crowded when we were there. I could just imagine how it looks like during peak season. When we started leaving the lake, the clouds are getting dark too. The rain poured when we were about to go to the viewing deck. We were not able to enjoy the view because it was too foggy. We got into our boat and moved to Smith Island to have lunch. Our lunch includes pork liempo, seaweeds, shrimp, pineapple, banana and rice. The rain has stopped while having lunch, so we were able to enjoy the moment and we have spent some time in the beach.

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After lunch, we moved to CYC Beach (Coron Youth Club). The weather cooperated well, and we got to paddle a kayak along the shore and near the mangroves. It was the first time that our friend was able to fly his drone, since drones aren’t allowed in the lagoons.

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For our final stop, we went to the Twin Lagoon. As we were approaching, the rain is getting heavier. We still continued and swam in the lake. The water here is a mixture of hot and cold. You have 2 choices to go to the other side of the lagoon. First, you take the stairs, or you swim under the rocks. I opted to take the stairs instead, because I could see the sharp edges of the rocks, and you have limited movements.

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Swim must go on at Twin Lagoon

Before going back to the port, we had banana cue for snacks.

For dinner, we went to Carl’s BBQ and ordered ribs and barbecue. They serve good food, and ambiance is nice too.

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Carl’s BBQ

08.26.17- Malcapuya Island, Banana Island, Bulog Dos Island

It was a 2-hour boat ride from the port of Coron, and waves were a bit strong. We were soaked in water for half the trip because of the waves. Our first stop was at Malcapuya Island. The beach is nice as well as the sand. The sand is comparable to the sand of Boracay. We got to enjoy it before the rain has fallen. A store is available in the island, and we got ourselves a fresh buko juice, turon and banana cue. There was also a free taste of squid. If you like it, you can buy a pack for PHP 200.

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Malcapuya Beach

We needed to hurry up for Banana Island, because it’s almost lunch time. Luckily, the rain has stopped when we reached Banana Island. Banana Island is quite developed. There were nice nipa huts, hammocks, swing and a volleyball court. Perfect for your selfie needs. For lunch, we had pork liempo, tulingan fish, squash and stringbeans, banana, watermelon and rice, and for snacks, we had the Kababayan bread.

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For our last stop, we went to Bulog Dos Island. It’s a small island that has a sandbar, visible during low tide that connects to Bulalacao Island, where the Two Seasons Hotel is located. It has really a nice view, and quite plenty of underwater creatures. We hung out by the sandbar, and we saw a starfish. There was also a jellyfish, as big as a fist, that stung my boyfie. I told him to pee on his legs and ask the boatman to pour vinegar on his legs. It worked well, and the day after it was gone.

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Just a few meters away from Two Seasons Coron

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Glad to have seen a starfish during our trip

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For dinner, we went to Winnie’s. They serve exotic seafood dishes. Since I’m allergic to seafoods, I had porkchop instead and it was delicious.

08.27.18- East Tangat Gunboat, Lusong Gunboat, Pass Island

Our activity for this day is mostly underwater. We got to see the Japanese shipwrecks from World War 2. They are shallow and is easily visible once you go underwater. We went to the East Tangat Gunboat and Lusong Gunboat. Both can be viewed while snorkeling. There were also beautiful sea creatures living within the area.

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Getting ready for the day’s activity

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A Japanese shipwreck from World War 2

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Our next destination is at Pass Island. For me this is the most beautiful. Crystal clear water, fine sand, mangroves on the other end, coconut trees and plenty of sea creatures. Even in the shallow part, school of fishes are swimming with us. Some of our friends even saw a stingray when they went a bit far. Just don’t forget to wear your aqua shoes to avoid stepping on sea urchins and stone fish that can be poisonous. When we were half way eating our lunch, the rain poured. We have the same set of meal, but this time we have mangoes and chopsuey.

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Approaching Pass Island

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Plenty of fishes in the shallow water

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We spent the whole time in Pass Island, so we weren’t able to see the Lusong Coral. It houses beautiful corals according to our guide.

After a long day, we had dinner again at Carl’s Bbq. This time we ordered barbecue, chicken cordon bleu, chopsuey, and sizzling gambas.

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Barbecue for dinner

After dinner, we went around town to buy souvenirs like shirt, ref magnet and dream catcher. Of course, we will not forget the famous cashew nuts of Palawan.

08.28.17- Busuanga Airport

We have to leave our hostel after eating breakfast to catch our flights. I tried my luck to get into the first flight, but it was overbooked and I was bumped off. I waited for the next flight and I was told that it is full again. I already considered flying to Clark just to get home, but luckily, I got a slot for the midday flight. We were ahead of scheduled time of arrival again.

For our itinerary and total damage to our wallet, feel free to click Itinerary- Coron, Palawan 2017

Holiday in Hong Kong

All I ever wished for this year’s birthday is to spend it in Disneyland. Okay, how shallow for a 20-something year old woman. Isn’t it that Disneyland is fairly for kids of all ages? I just wanted to be a kid again on that special day, so I decided that we will be flying to Hong Kong and a side trip to Macau. Hong Kong is pretty much a city vibe where you can suffice your shopping addiction. Hong Kong has a touch of both Oriental and Western style (being a colony of UK for a long time, and was only returned to China and became a special administrative region of China in 1997). Hong Kong is a 2-hour flight from Manila, which makes it easily accessible among Filipinos, and most of the time it’s the destination of the first timers leaving the Philippines.

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Hong Kong-Macau in a glimpse of 4 days and 4 nights (06.10.17-06.14.17)

We took an afternoon flight to Hong Kong via Cebu Pacific 5J 118 because I came from Narita, Japan the day before, and lost all my energy to pack. Instead, I packed in the morning. We are meeting my sister half-way, and she’s coming from a 20-hour plus flight starting from Washington DC- Los Angeles- Hong Kong via Virgin America (US domestic) and Cathay Pacific (international). She arrived in Hong Kong at 6am, while we’re arriving in Hong Kong at 6pm. My sister needed to rest first to avoid getting jet-lagged.

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Hong Kong from above

My sister went back to the airport to fetch us, and ride altogether going to our hostel before heading to dinner. Before leaving the airport, i claimed at the A13 arrival hall all my purchases from Klook.com which includes an Octopus card and iVenture card. Octopus card is used for trains, buses and even purchases from 7Eleven. On the other hand, iVenture card has plenty of attractions both for Hong Kong and Macau, so you don’t have to pay anymore for the entrance fee of each attraction. It also includes a discounted Disneyland pass, local sim with 4G wifi, discounted ferry transfer to Macau.

We took a 30-minute bus ride from the airport, and dropped off at Nathan Road in Mongkok. We walked a few blocks before we found the building where our hostel is at. It could be a little confusing so it’s best to have a landmark. Our hostel was booked through Airbnb and all that was written in there was pretty accurate.

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Kung Hing Guesthouse, where we stayed

For dinner, we went to a nearby mall, just a few blocks at the back of the building of our hostel. We found ourselves eating at a Chinese restaurant in Langham Mall. We got a sumptuous dinner for an affordable price.

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Chee Kai Set Meal

It was still early, so we visited the Sneaker Street of Mongkok, I got myself a pair of Pink Stan Smith, which used to be only available in Paris. It was the lone store that sells the color pink, so I grabbed the opportunity to buy myself a new pair.

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Classic tennis shoes

06.11.17- Macau

I will be having a separate post on our Macau trip. Click the link to read about our Macau trip.

After Macau, we visited the Ladies Market, and Beauty area of Mongkok. Near the gadgets area, we grabbed some street food like calamares.

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Munching on street foods

For dinner, there is another Chinese restaurant near our hostel. We got ourselves a Haianese chicken and milk tea.

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Haianese Chicken and Milk Tea for dinner

06.12.17– Disneyland

The weather in Hong Kong was pretty bad that it reached Signal No. 8 in the afternoon, which means that everything will be closed including the MTR. Our original activity for this day is to take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, and visit the Giant Buddha and Ngong Ping Village. Due to strong winds, the cable car was suspended, and I felt bad. We have the option to take the bus so we can still visit the other attractions, but I decided that this will include in my itinerary the next time I’m back in Hong Kong. The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is part of the attractions included in the iVenture card, so it had been paid already. We had our brunch at McDonalds at a nearby mall, before we took the train that will take us to Disneyland.

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Mickey Mouse designed train going to Disneyland

Mr. sunshine was showing up when we got into Disneyland. Before we finally went in, I claimed the vouchers for our meal, which was also paid online. It includes lunch and free ice cream or popcorn. It was worth it.

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Welcome to Disneyland

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The first and only area we visited was the Tomorrowland. We had the Iron Man Experience, and Hyperspace Mountain. I thought it was all for kids, but I was wrong! I enjoyed it because it wasn’t something that I expected. Afterwards, we felt hungry and decided to eat. We had a mix of Japanese and American food which were all heavy and worth every penny. After eating, we were thinking of the next rides that we will take, but unfortunately, Disneyland has to be closed because of Signal No. 8, and we were left by no choice but to leave. We hurriedly went back to our hostel as the MTRs will close soon too. It was raining hard in Mongkok, and we all opted to sleep instead.

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First and only area we explored

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House of Animation

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Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

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Main Street USA

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My Amerindian ancestor

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Ramen & tempura

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Bacon, beef and sausage with rice

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I thought my birthday will end soon in bed, but I wake them up to eat dinner. Just at the 2nd floor of our building, there’s a traditional Chinese restaurant, that serves exotic food as well. We had Yang Chow rice, chicken, and beef with beans and veggies along with beer.

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Asahi beer instead of cake on my birthday

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A traditional Chinese restaurant

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Yang Chow rice, fried chicken & beef with beans & veggie for dinner

06.13.17- Ocean Park, Peak Tram, Madame Tussauds

It was raining hard, yet there was no storm signal. We left our hostel to join our transfer ride going to Ocean Park. Our meeting place was at Holiday Inn Golden Mile. It was just few stations away from ours, but going to the hotel was risky. Some alleys that we passed by had waters already. We had no choice but to buy umbrellas and ponchos. Our pants and shoes got soaked in the water. Our meet-up is at 8am, but it was already past 8am, and our guide is not showing up yet. Perhaps, it was cancelled due to bad weather, but there was no storm signal, so it must push thru. After waiting for several minutes, our guide arrived.

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Raining, yet still plenty of tourists

It took 30 minutes to reach Ocean Park, and it was still early so most of the establishments were still closed. We’ve been walking around to find a place to eat, until we stumbled upon a fastfood place. This time, we had fries, soda, chicken rice, burger and ice cream. Yes, ice cream on a cold weather! Finally, after eating, we’re about to watch the dolphin show, but to our dismay it has been cancelled. Due to bad weather, all animals can’t leave their shelter. I’m starting to get disappointed, since my main reason why I went to Ocean Park is to see a panda. We just walked around and entered the shark aquarium, Amazon rainforest zoo, Australian conservation center (where we saw a kangaroo and a koala), and panda house. We got to meet the 31-year old panda. It was an item to tick-off in my bucket list. As for the rides, we only got to ride the express train going up and the cable car going down. At least, I was still able to ride a cable car even if the Ngong Ping 360 cable car wasn’t available the time we went there.

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Dolphin show has been cancelled

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Dare to try!

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Kangaroo feeding

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Didn’t know that white kangaroos exist, or perhaps the albino type

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Meet An-An the 31-year old panda

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Hibernating koala

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Cable car at Ocean Park

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Old Chinatown be-like

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After our Ocean Park adventure, we took a train ride going to Peak Tram station. We were in fact lost, so we took another bus ride and alighted a few meters away. When I saw the Peak Tram station, there was really a long line, but thanks to our pass, we need not to line up. We arrived at the Peak Tower where we had our yummy snacks at Kala Snackbar. We had strawberry soda & banana walnut crepe. We went around after eating, and we ended up in this place that I thought it was the Trick Eye Museum. It is something similar to that but it is for free. Then we headed to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where the wax figures looks real.

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Peak tram ride

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My afternoon snack

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I really don’t know who she is, but my sister said that she’s an artist with autism & famous in Washington DC

It’s time to eat once again, so we had dinner at Bubba Gump. We had a 10% discount, thanks to our iVenture cards. We got ourselves a heavy meal since it’s been a long and tiring day.  I wasn’t feeling well that time. It feels like that anytime, my head will just burst. I’m not sure if it was a migraine attack or I was just hungry. After eating, we found a Korean store, and once again it has been proven that retail therapy can cure any ailment.

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Dinner in big servings

We’re suppose to go to the viewing deck to see the nice view of Hong Kong, but unfortunately, it was so foggy and it will not be worth going up.

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Foggy view of Hong Kong

Now, we left the Hong Kong Island and returned to our hostel to rest.

06.14.17- Mongkok

It was our last day in Hong Kong and we didn’t have a pretty decent shopping activity, except that I got myself a pair of pink Stan Smith. We woke up early, and had brunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant before we headed for shopping. We loaded ourselves with Korean products and sneakers that are either too expensive in Manila or we don’t have it here. We got ourselves a polo shirt in a super sale at Giordano, and of course, something to munch on! I can actually dedicate a whole day to shopping, but my card will be at risk.

For our itinerary and total damage to our wallet, feel free to click Itinerary- Hong Kong Macau 2017

Staycation at Pico de Loro

My last hurrah for Summer 2017 came in June. It has been raining for almost everyday, and I was already losing hope to get myself a tan. However, on that weekend of June 17 & 18, the weather was with us. It was a pretty good day to get ourselves soaked in the water.

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Passing by this beautiful scenery on our way to Pico de Loro

Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club in a glance of 2 days, and 1 night. (06.17-18.17)

We are expected to check-in at our room at 2 in the afternoon. Instead of leaving early, which we normally do when we go out of town, we left our house at almost 12 noon, and reached Nasugbu, Batangas at 2pm. It was a pretty decent ride, and I didn’t expect that it will only take about 2 hours going there from our place. We usually take the Tagaytay-Nasugbu route, which takes about 3 hours or more, depending on the traffic in Tagaytay. Based from our navigator, Waze, we’re suppose to take NAIAx and Cavitex, and take Noveleta Exit, and you will pass by the towns of Tanza, Naic, Maragondon, and Ternate, until you reach the Kaybiang Tunnel, and just a few minutes away from Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club.

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Kaybiang Tunnel

Pico de Loro is actually a members-only leisure club, but thanks to Airbnb, we found a way to get in there. After weeks of searching for an affordable, yet worthy escapade, I ended up in the page of our host who owns a unit at Pico de Loro. Our host’s unit is the cheapest among all those who have their units rented at Pico de Loro. For only PHP 3658 per night (all in) her space is fully furnished, and you’re allowed to cook and use her appliances as well. Although, you need to pay PHP 1200 per head as guest fee for the use of  facilities for non-members (as per management of Pico de Loro)

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Registration area

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Our room is at Carola B

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Mt. Pico de Loro in the background

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We arrived just in time for check-in, and we’re all hungry. As expected, we ended up eating at the restaurant. We had bulalo, pancit luglug, and beef salpicao, good for 4 pax. Afterwards, we headed to the pool and stayed there until sunset. My sister and her friend left the pool earlier, because they are tasked to prepare dinner.

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The night before we left, I went to the grocery to buy the essentials for our trip, and to actually save more money on food. We had Buttered Chicken with Salted Egg for dinner, and it was a good one. We’re suppose to drink beer for the rest of the night, but my sister fell asleep and we ended up watching k-drama instead.

06.18.18- Day 2

I woke up earlier than the rest so I prepared the breakfast. I cooked corned beef, hotdogs and fried rice. It was quite plenty for a group of 4. At 0900am, we headed to the beach. I wasn’t impressed with the waters (compared to those I’ve been to). It was so hot that day so I stayed under the umbrella for a long time, while my sister and her friend enjoyed riding the jet-ski. After a few more hours, we left and prepared for checking-out. I’m glad that in our whole stay, it didn’t rain and ruin the fun.

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Jellyfish warning to swimmers (but luckily I didn’t see any)

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Lifeguard on duty

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Maxi dress from Forever 21

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For itinerary and budget, feel free to click the link Itinerary- Pico de Loro 2017

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PS. They do not accept cash instead they prefer debit/credit card and cash card which you can reload with your cash.

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Ice-cold beer on a hot day

 

When Disaster Aftermath Lead to Nature’s Beauty- Mt. Pinatubo

Almost 26 years ago, it was the most devastating natural disaster that occurred, not only in the Philippines, but in the world. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales has gotten so many lives, and buried them underground alive. Many people were forced to leave their houses without any idea when they can comeback. The ashes from the volcanic eruption went as far as Hong Kong, and the world temperature for 10 years was decreased by 1 degree Celsius. I remember in the late 90s, whenever we spend our summer in Pundaquit, Zambales, we always pass by the province of Pampanga, and the remnants of the lahar look so fresh, and the surroundings were very much like a zombie land.

The calamity of yesterday turned out to be a beautiful disaster. As we trekked for 2 hours going to the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo, we passed by several smiling Aetas, the locals of the area. Afterwards, we’ve seen the most rewarding view of the lake.

Mt. Pinatubo in a glance of a few hours (02.20.17)

My very good friend invited me to join their group, who will trek the Capas, Tarlac trail of Mt. Pinatubo. Without any hesitations, I said yes. I don’t normally do hiking, due to my very demanding work that requires me to sleep during my days off. I tried several before like trekking in Mt. Buntot Palos, and Mt. Isarog, and I have loved the rewarding view of the falls in those mountains. I strongly felt that I can do Pinatubo, since I got to experience spelunking at Biak na Bato, but heck that was in my freshman year in high school, almost 12 years ago. For someone like me who considers walking as a form of exercise, I got to reach the peak of Mt. Pinatubo without giving up.

In the Monday morning of Feb. 20, the group met in Ortigas. The trip was organized by my friend’s friend who happens to be working for Nat Geo, and they create new trails for mountains. Such a cool job, you get to discover a lot of new adventures. We were a group of 10, 3 of them were my batch mates in high school, and the rest were from the same circle of flying.

Our van left Ortigas, at 3:30am, and before the sun rises, we were already at the jump-off point in Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. We were required to register at the tourism office and once our 4×4 rides were available, we started our adventure.

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The ride was around an hour and a half, and we were the first ones to make a trip, so we created the path that will be followed by the other trekkers later.

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Toblerone-shaped lahar mountain

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We had a short stop-over at the Toblerone-like mountain. The mountains were created out of lahar.

After our 4×4 ride, this is when we started to trek. It was probably 3-4 kms in distance. They say that it used to be a very long trek, almost 7kms if I remember it right. However, according to what I’ve heard, some areas have been bulldozed to give way for “VIPs” who will be visiting/inspecting the area. Such a shame, it’s nature who will adjust for those people, and that’s the ugly truth.

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Another area for registration

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After several mins., i found a bathroom with water. Yehey!! I’ve been wanting to pee for the longest time, but I have to hold it or else, I’ll do it somewhere in the bush.

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Where do you belong?

After several walks again, we found a banner stating that it’s 20 mins. more to the crater. I saw some locals doing their laundry by the stream, and didn’t mind the scorching heat. There were families of Aetas living in that part, so please if you happen to go here, bring some snacks or anything for the kids. I’m sure they will appreciate it.

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Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations

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Finally!

At last, we reach the peak. It was 9am and the view was rewarding. My trekking was worth every penny.

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Happy, my hs batchmate & volleyball teammate during our varsity days

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Cat, beautiful friend since 2nd grade. 18 years of solid friendship.

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Kev, my good friend since 1st year high school

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Thank you to these beautiful people for the wonderful time

 

We stayed for an hour and camp by the lake. I suggest that you bring your own food and drinks and load up on carbs. There’s a lone store there, but the prices of his goods are way too high.

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High school never ends

Before we went back, we made sure that we didn’t leave any trash.

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Leave nothing but footprints

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The expenses for this trip was PHP 3100 per head for a group of 10. It includes transfer rides from Manila to jump-off point and vice-versa, registration fee, environmental fee and 4×4 ride. Pack light and wear something comfy that can cover you from heat.

After our trek, we took a shower in one of the houses near the jump-off point, and paid 50 bucks.

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Since it was still early to go home, we had a side trip in Angeles, Pampanga, and ate at Funnside Ningnangan.

For itinerary and budget, click Itinerary- Mt. Pinatubo 2017

1/3 Edited using phone app while stuck in traffic. 🙊 Trail to Mt. Pinatubo | 02.20.17

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2/3 Edited using phone app while stuck in traffic. 🙊 Trail to Mt. Pinatubo | 02.20.17

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3/3 Edited using phone app while stuck in traffic. 🙊 Trail to Mt. Pinatubo | 02.20.17

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The Blissful Paradise of Bantayan Island

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The island of Bantayan is at the northern most part of Cebu. It takes about 6 hours to reach this paradise from Cebu City. The locals from the island speak different dialects, because they are very near to the islands of Masbate, Leyte and Panay. There are two beaches in the island, namely, Alice and Sugar. I tried walking on both shores, and they’re just almost the same. There were tons of resorts to choose from, depending on your budget of course. I chose a resort located in the town of Bantayan, a bit of traveling before reaching the beach proper in the town of Santa Fe.

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Bantayan Island, Cebu in a glimpse of 1 day and 1 night. (07.30-31.16)

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Shore of Santa Fe, Bantayan Island

Land, air and sea.

The crowd in Bantayan Island are mostly tourists (foreigners and locals from Manila), and it could be time-consuming before you reach the island. 3 domestic airlines travel from Manila to Cebu daily, and flights are almost hourly. There are also available flights going to Cebu from our neighboring countries, Middle East, and USA. Domestic flights from the different provinces also fly to Cebu daily or weekly. Seat sale is offered by airlines months before your scheduled vacation, and sometimes even weeks before.

Manila flights are usually an hour and 30 minutes flying time.

Take a regular(white) taxi from the right side of the arrival hall of Mactan-Cebu International Airport, and tell the driver to take you to the North Bus Terminal.

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Scheduled trips from Cebu City to Bantayan Island and vice-versa via Ceres Bus Liner

There are scheduled trips going to Hagnaya Port, and it takes about 3-4 hours from the bus terminal to the port. It’s better to take the air-conditioned bus.

At Hagnaya Port, pay the terminal fee, and avail the next available trip to Santa Fe Port, Bantayan Island.

Where to Stay?

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The resort where we stayed

There are many resorts to choose from, depending on your preference and budget. I booked at Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort (09189408066). I called up the contact number I found online, and reservations were arranged after I made a 30% down payment. The resort is located in the town of Bantayan, and it takes about 20 mins. to reach the shore of Santa Fe. They picked us up from the port of Santa Fe.

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View from our hut

 

07.30.16 Food trip in Santa Fe

After 6 hours  of traveling from Cebu City, we finally reached this paradise on a gloomy day. The currents going to Bantayan were quite big, and I kept my fingers crossed that our trip won’t be cancelled. We were picked up by the resort’s “gardener”, and later on I found out that she is the wife of the owner, and we belong to the same circle of flying. She was a very gracious host, and full of energy. We were greeted by a resort that looks very natural: forest themed. It has a beautiful infinity pool, pool cave, mini zoo, library, etc. Our villa is surrounded by trees and has a nice view in the morning. A complimentary breakfast was also included in our accommodation. We planned to rent a motorbike, so we could go around the island, but it wasn’t available at that time. Instead, we availed the drop-off/pick-up to Santa Fe.

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Complimentary breakfast

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I enjoyed eating at the famous MJ Square, where various restaurants and food stalls are located. A variety of food that you can choose from, yet at an affordable price.

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Sumptuous meal for two

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Variety of meals to choose from

 

07.31.16 Land Tour in the towns of Bantayan, Madridejos and Santa Fe

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Aside from swimming, we had a tour around the island of Bantayan. A package is offered in our resort. It took 2 hours to complete the tour. We visited the towns of Madridejos- where the ruins of Kota is found, Bantayan- where the oldest church (2nd in Cebu) of Sts. Peter & Paul is located, and Santa Fe. We passed by Ogtong Resort, where we had our picture taken at the Ogtong Cave. The rest of the time, we just eat, swim and sleep.

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If you’re a seafood lover, this is the place to be. They offer it fresh and in a variety of seafood viands. Different cuisines can be found here too- from local to international. For people who have a sweet tooth, like me, your dessert cravings can be satisfied. I highly recommend the leche flan sold at Dessert Zone. You can never go hungry in this island, and they’re all affordable.

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Bantayan is far from the developed beaches in our country, and I appreciate it that way. It is comparable to the famous Boracay Island, however, it is its quiet and affordable version. It has so much to offer, that you can really enjoy your stay in the island.

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For itinerary and budget, feel free to click the link Itinerary- Bantayan Island 2016

I would love to visit this paradise again someday, and try out the water activities, that we failed to do due to weather.

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Overnight in Thailand

Bangkok may be known for spicy Thai food, temples, lady boys, and shopping. The latter, for me, is the most attractive, and that made me flew to Bangkok on a short notice.

Bangkok, Thailand in a glimpse of 1 day and 1 night. (04.29.16-04.30.16)

Everything was planned and booked last minute, but surprisingly it was not that expensive. It was my first time to try the Airbnb app. It’s an app that could let you choose your accommodation depending on your budget and preference. After browsing through different accommodations, I found a hostel fit for my preference. It is not in downtown Bangkok. However, it’s just a few minutes away from Chatuchak, the shopping destination. Our hostel is at PHP 793 per night plus a surcharge of PHP 94. It includes twin beds with toiletries and complimentary water and noodles. The front desk officer was very accommodating, and can speak good English.

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Room @ VIPA Hotel

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Our hostel from outside

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Hostel’s lobby

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Twin beds in a fairly nice room for only PHP 793 per night

I have searched online for the different tour packages available, and I found my most preferred through Royal Exclusive Travel. The package includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel (hotels must be in downtown Bangkok or if you’re hotel is not within the area, like in our case, we had Asia Bangkok Hotel as our meeting place), elephant ride and floating market tour in Damnoen Saduak, English-speaking tour guide and a complimentary drinking water. You can book this tour at http://www.asia-discovery.com

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Waiting four group tour at Asia Bangkok Hotel

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Day 1- 04.29.16

We took the red eye flight MNL-BKK, and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport at midnight. Since our hostel is 20 minutes away from BKK airport, we had no choice, but to take a cab. We rested for a few hours before we prepared for our tour.

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Another check on my bucket list: to ride an elephant

  • Elephant Village

It took an hour and a half before we have reached the elephant village at Damnoen Saduak. After a short briefing, we had our turns to ride the elephant and tour the forest. The “elephant driver” offered some souvenirs after our ride. Each souvenir costs around THB 150-300. It was my first time to ride an elephant, and it was an item to mark-off on my bucket list.

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While waiting for our turn to ride the elephant

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Forest bound

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Not your typical ride

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A view of the forest and wild monkeys from the elephant’s perspective

  • Floating Market

A few minutes away from the Elephant Village is the famous Venice of the East, the Floating Market. You take a canoe around the area and you can shop from a variety of Thai products. You can even ask for a discount especially if you’re buying bulk items.

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Bathroom break before we continue our journey

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A Thai local in their daily work

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Different items for sale

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Feel free to haggle when buying

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Souvenir items for sale

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Blending in with the tourists

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Plenty of tourists around

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After our tour, we were dropped off in downtown Bangkok. We were figuring out how to take the train, but there was no English translation and nobody speaks English. We were left with just one option, and that is to take the cab going to our hostel. Before we left, we walk along the streets and we found some local delicacies, and we gave it a try. We also passed by a stall that sells an authentic Thai milk tea.

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Authentic Thai milk tea & the ivory bracelet bought from the elephant driver

When we got into our hotel, we rest again for a bit, then went out to look for a temple. There is a Buddhist temple a few streets away from our hostel, and we paid a visit, because we could no longer visit the famous temples due to time constraint.

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A Buddhist temple we found near our hostel

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Light a candle, say a prayer and let it flow

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Or you may write down your prayers and hang it on the tree

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After a tiring and productive day, we got very hungry. There is a restaurant at the lobby of our hostel, and they serve authentic Thai food. I know that most of the Thai food are spicy, so I ordered for a mild spicy food. To my surprise, it is still very spicy, and to my friend who happens to love spicy food gave up too.

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Spicy bacon and rice

My friend needed to leave early, because she booked the wrong date of her flight, and I was left alone to do all the shopping. As a token of appreciation for my friend who came along even if unprepared, I bought her a passport holder.

  • JJ Market

Have you heard of shopaholics flocking Thailand to hoard items for business or personal use? Yes, it’s true that they sell quality stuff for a very low price. In fact, I tried to compare them with our very own Greenhills Shopping Center. They sell almost the same things but there is a big difference in the price.

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JJ Night Market

The front desk officer told me about this place beside Chatuchak. According to her, there is a night market every weekend that are preferred to be visited by the younger people. I checked it out, and it was indeed catered for the younger people. I started shopping at 7pm, and I ended at midnight, and got home with shopping bags on both hands.

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Passport holders

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How they customize it

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Shoes

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Find your stuff

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Day 2- 04.30.16

I was supposed to have the whole day for shopping, and taking the red eye flight going back to Manila. However, I realized that I have an early morning duty the next day, and I need to rest. As a result, I took the midday flight going home. Before my trip ends, there’s another side story I have to share. The night before I left for JJ Market, I told the front desk officer on duty that I’ll be checking out the next day at 7pm. I changed my mind and took the earlier flight instead, so I needed to leave the hostel at 7am. Unfortunately, there was no one in the lobby to inform that I’ll be leaving. Make things more impossible, the hostel’s location is in one of the alleys, so taxis don’t often go to that area. Good thing, the wifi was turned on, so I tried to use my Grabtaxi app. I made 3 attempts, 2 failed because they cannot contact me because I have no local number. Luckily, the 3rd one arrived, but he can’t speak English at all. I told him to take me to the airport. I remember I kept a copy of my itinerary translated in Thai, and I showed it to him. When we were near the airport, I know that he was asking whether we are going to the departure or arrival area. He cannot understand when I said departure, but I was in good fate, and I saw a translated sign of departure and I pointed it to him. I was really thankful for his willingness to understand, and to show my appreciation, I told him to keep the change.

For itinerary and budget, feel free to click the link, Bangkok 2016- itinerary

Hopefully when I have a chance to visit Thailand again, I get to see the famous temples, Patpong district, Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, and many more.

The Mystery and Beauty of Masasa Beach

Masasa Beach is approximately 3 hours away from Manila. Located in Maricaban Island, town of Tingloy in Batangas. It is neighboring to Mindoro Island, Isla Verde, and Anilao Batangas. It is near the famous Sumbrero Island, which they say that it’s part of Anilao (please correct me if I’m wrong). Among all the beaches that I have been to, this is the most quiet and cleanest. When I was walking in their downtown, it felt like I was transported in the old times. When you want some peace and quiet time, you can go here. It is under-developed and it has not been commercialized.

I’ll take you back in 2015, 2 years ago

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Masasa Beach with the over-looking Mindoro island

 

This DIY trip is the most buwis-buhay getaway in my entire existence.

It happened to be a long weekend, 17th of January 2015, because of the pope’s arrival in the country. Long weekend means time to pack our bags and go somewhere. Fortunately, it’s also the birthday weekend of my other half. I planned the whole trip and gave it as my birthday present to him.

A glimpse of Masasa Beach, Tingloy, Batangas in 3 days and 2 nights (01.17.15-01.19.15)

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Crystal clear water of Masasa Beach

We left our house at 5am, so that we could catch the JAM Bus Liner going to Batangas City Grand Terminal at 7am. The bus ride took almost 2 hours coming from Buendia, Makati.

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Bus ride to Batangas

Upon reaching our destination, we took a jeepney ride to Mabini Port, which took 45 mins to an hour from the city. The boats at the port are scheduled to leave every hour starting at 10am. Unfortunately, a storm happened to enter the country on that day, as a result the provincial government declared Signal no. 1, which means that no boats could sail. We were not informed that there was a storm signal, because the sun was out there, and not even a single drop of rain has fallen. But rules are rules- storm signal warning, strictly no sailing. We were stuck in the port for 4 hours, and I have thought of just going to a resort in Anilao. However, we saw some locals of Tingloy heading home. (so there must be a way to go to that island). He, first tried talking to the Tingloy locals, in his Batangueno accent, (so that they won’t assume that we are Manila kids & might take advantage) and asked if we could hitch a boat ride with them, and we’re willing to pay some extra bucks just to go to Tingloy. The very nice man agreed, and accommodated the 2 of us in their small boat with a capacity of 10 people. We sailed away. It was very smooth and we’re just passing through the shores of Anilao. The waves were very peaceful and there was no slight evidence of a storm approaching. We called the caretaker of the place that we’re staying, and told her that we will be arriving in about an hour.

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Waiting at Mabini Port in Anilao, Batangas

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The waves are very calm

When we’re about to cross the middle of the sea, I’ve started seeing giant waves. Waves that could make our boat sink. I could not make a single move from where I am seated, and it feels like, one wrong, all wrong and we die. I tried my best to hide my emotions so I wouldn’t scare the birthday boy. Mind you, we were not even wearing life vests, and if the boat will sink, I wondered if there are sharks out there to eat us. It’s impossible to be saved by another boat because we’re the only boat in that part of the sea. Prayers are already shouted in my head, and I thought of my family (feels like the end of the world). It was the longest 1 hour boat ride of my life, and thank you that we made it alive to Tingloy.

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Trike ride going to the shore

We took a trike from the shore going to our inn, and we were welcomed by the caretaker. After changing into our swimwear, we headed to the beach. It’s indeed a virgin beach! Crystal clear water, white powdery sand with a few pebbles, calm waves, and even if you go far, it’s still safe to swim. When we were walking along the shore, we saw a camp site of 2 pax, and they look very much chill.

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Passing by the green fields before you reach the shore

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It’s actually a 10-min. walk

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Met a carabao on our way

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And a goat too

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We returned to the inn when it was 6pm, and cooked our baon for dinner. The caretaker was so nice that she even allowed us to use their stove, and other kitchen utensils. We were even lucky that we get the house all to ourselves, which means that we don’t have to share the bathroom with anyone!

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All to ourselves

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The famous staircase, I’m not sure of the name

 

Day 2- 01.18.15

We got up so early, but it was raining hard. The caretaker informed us that there is still a storm signal, and we cannot go back to mainland Batangas yet, so we went back to sleep. We went to the beach at 3pm, and the whole beach was ours. Nobody wanted to enjoy the beach except us. Mr. Sunshine showed up in the afternoon, and it was just perfect to get my tan.

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Our campsite

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Getting a tan

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Mr. sunshine is about to set

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Day 3- 01.19.15

Storm signal has been lifted, and we could leave.

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Time to go home

On our last night in the island, we felt something strange. I mentioned above that we got all the house to ourselves. The house is relatively new. All the floors are made of cement including those in the 2nd floor. There are 3 rooms upstairs, and I noticed that there is also no ceiling. You can already see the roof, if you look up. There is also a rotating brown-out in the island, starting 11pm until 6am. We were already in bed at 10pm, then the lights are out. We only have the rechargeable fan and light. We turned it off because it was so cold. We were so silent because we both felt sleepy and tired, not until, I heard something. I went like, “Naririnig mo ba yun? (Do you hear that)”, and he goes like, “Oo, wag mong pakinggan (Yes, don’t listen)”. Then he covered my ears. Well, we just heard footsteps going towards our room. I’m sure it was not a cat, because the floor is made of cement. It was heavy footsteps. The wall in our room, doesn’t extend up until the roof, because there was no ceiling, so there is a space, and you can just peak outside our room. We knew what we heard, so I said, “Ang lapit na niya, papunta ata sa’tin (It’s near, I think it’s going towards us)” So we were under the sheets the whole wee hours and hugging each other tightly, and very scared. I never told the caretaker about it, because she was so nice to us, and I don’t wanna say anything negative because she’s very accommodating. Probably, it was just a welcome from the other side, but we got scared.

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I was planning to take my sister to Masasa Beach, not until I came across a very recent blog post about it. I suddenly felt sad, coz it was no longer the Masasa Beach that I was imagining. It was so packed with campers, and it felt like there was no space to pitch in my tent. The locals have made curfews for campers, unlike before that we can camp overnight. I hope I’m wrong, and it only looks like that during peak season, but you can barely see people before even if it’s a peak season.

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How to visit Masasa Beach?

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I wish it stays like this for a lifetime

From Makati or Cubao, take a bus ride going to Batangas City Grand Terminal, then transfer to a jeepney bound to Mabini. You may drop-off at Mabini Port. Ferry rides going to Tingloy and vice-versa are scheduled and available daily. Once you reach Tingloy, you may walk or take a trike going to your accommodation or to the beach site.

FYI:

The beach is a public beach so it is free. I suggest that you buy your food and toiletries from the mainland as these items are expensive in Tingloy. Prepare your budget on transpo and accommodation. The people are very nice, so please be nice to them too. Don’t forget to dispose your garbage properly. Keep the island clean and enjoy.

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Itinerary & budget for this trip

Beautiful Bohol

Another beauty of Mother Earth has been showcased in the province of Bohol. The island is blessed with natural beauty; from the chocolate hills and lush green forests to the crystal clear river and white powdery shores of Panglao Island. Let’s not forget that it is also the home of the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier. It does not only boast its natural beauty, but also its historical value. Bohol houses century-old churches, ancestral homes, etc. The first blood compact between a Filipino and a foreigner took place in Bohol too. If you will recall from our history class, Rajah Sikatuna made a blood compact with Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines to symbolize their alliance.

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Panglao Beach

Bohol in a glimpse of 2 days and 1 night. (11.26.16-11.27.16)

Bohol is an island located in Central Visayas. Should you wish to visit this beautiful paradise, you may have Manila or Cebu as your entry point. Bohol is 2 hours away from Cebu City via fast craft and an hour away from Manila via domestic flight to Tagbilaran. Scheduled trips are available daily from Manila and Cebu. Be sure to book in advance your ticket because most of the time the trips are full. From Cebu City’s pier 2, we took a 2 hour ride via Oceanjet fast craft. We availed the earliest at 6:00am and costs 920PHP roundtrip economy per person. Add 25PHP terminal fee per person. We reached Tagbilaran at 8:00am, and we were picked-up by our tour guide.

11.26.16 Countryside Tour

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Our driver and guide at the port.

Our tour began after our driver, Lito, picked us up from the port. I have availed a Countryside Tour from Incredible Bohol by Sir Tatsky Cubero because, first, I don’t want the hassle of commuting. We will be visiting different sites, and if we choose the road less traveled, we have to take different rides too. Second, I am not familiar with the schedule of public transpo, and if we ended our tour at night, rides may not be available too. I highly recommend Sir Tatsky if you wish to get a tour. The tour includes pick-up from port, countryside tour (except entrance fee for each), and drop off at resort in Panglao for only Php 2100. I think the rate is good for 4 persons already since you really pay the car rental and service.

  •  Blood Compact Site
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Rajah Sikatuna & Miguel Lopez de Legaspi blood compact site.

Again, if you listen to your history teacher you will know that the blood compact between Rajah Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi took place in Bohol. In honor of that event, a monument has been created by a fellow Boholano, and can be visited for free.

Entrance Fee: Free

  •  Baclayon Church

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This is one of Bohol’s century-old church. It was badly devastated when an earthquake hit the province in 2013. Right now, it’s under construction. A museum is open for tour at the side of the church for a minimal fee.

Entrance Fee: Free

  • Butterfly Haven

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It’s just a bonsai garden filled with butterflies. A souvenir shop is also conveniently located there.

Entrance Fee: 45PHP per person

  • Loboc River Cruise and Floating Restaurant
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River cruise & lunch for two

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Loboc River

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A view of lush green forests and crystal clear water while you’re on board and eating your Filipino lunch buffet. To make it more lovely, some good old songs are played by a live band. The trip lasts for about an hour. Our guide told us that we should have the river cruise first to avoid waiting for so long and it will consume so much time for our trip.

Entrance Fee: 450PHP per person

  • Chocolate Hills

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This is the most famous landmark of Bohol. It takes about some 200 steps to reach the viewing deck, and you get a spectacular 360 degree view. It’s worth all the steps because the view is breathtaking. I’m not so sure how many hills are really in there, but it’s quite plenty.

Entrance Fee: 50PHP per person

  • Tarsier Conservation Center

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Hello there tiny one!

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Yes, they are out in the forest in this protected conservation center. When we visited, most of them are asleep, and you just see their back. They are so tiny, that the center’s staff has to point where the tarsier is exactly at. A friendly reminder to our fellow guests, please turn off the flash of your cameras for this may stress the tarsier and please do not touch them. Tarsiers can be suicidal if they are stressed out.

Entrance Fee: 60PHP per person

  • Bamboo Hanging Bridge

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It’s the oldest of its kind in the province. A twin bamboo hanging bridge to cross the river. After crossing the bridge, you may opt to buy souvenirs and refreshments. In order to go back, you have to take another bamboo bridge.

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Entrance Fee: 20PHP per person

  • Man-made Mahogany Forest

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According to our guide, back in the Marcos era, students from public schools were required to plant trees. The mahogany forest along the highway was the result of this tree planting project. It’s more than a kilometer stretch of mahogany trees making the surrounding beautiful.

Entrance Fee: Free

  • Shiphauz

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There is a famous house in Bohol that was patterned from a ship and it instantly became a landmark. It is said to be owned by a sailor. Tours stop by the house for photo op.

Entrance Fee: Free

  • Hinagdanan Cave

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After our tour in Tagbilaran, we moved to Panglao Island, and visited the Hinagdanan Cave. In the center of it is a mini lake, which is about 10 feet deep or more with fishes in it.

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Entrance Fee: 115PHP for 2 pax including parking fee

  • Bohol Bee Farm

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Aside from offering organic choices, Bohol Bee Farm is a resort as well. However, it is not located along the shores of Alona. You get to tour around the farm, and see how they process their products. We bought home the pesto spread, which I really give a thumbs up. Don’t forget to try their organic ice cream. It’s so good and it comes in different flavors.

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Famous organic ice cream

Entrance Fee: 30PHP per person

Now our tour has ended, and we were dropped off at our hotel, Scent of Green Papaya Resort, near the Alona beach side. Our hotel is not in the beach front, but they have tricycle rides that can drop and pick you up from the shore and it’s free. I have availed a room for 1 night good for 2 persons and it exceeded my expectations. Our room is so big for us with a good view of the pool plus free breakfast and a strong wifi connection. I have booked our hotel through Booking.com and just pay the remaining balance upon arrival.

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After we have left our things at the resort, we strolled along the shores of Alona and looked for a place to eat dinner. We found a Thai restaurant named Isis. Food was great, although I am not a fan of spicy food. Budget-wise, decent enough for a sumptuous meal of two. Of course we cannot skip dessert- it’s a must every after meal. There was a stall of Bohol Bee Farm’s ice cream. We got to taste the rare finds like malunggay, guyabano, etc.

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Thai food for dinner

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11.27.16 Alona Beach

When the sun is finally out, we had our breakfast by the terrace before we jumped into the pool then head to the beach. It was a good day to get a tan. In fact, I think I was extra tanned that day. We were asked if we would like to avail the island hopping and snorkeling package. I declined bec. most of the online articles I’ve read stated that it was a tourist trap and second, i’m not into snorkeling.

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We spent midday in Panglao beach. We were enjoying the sun and the waters, and ignored getting dark. There were many foreigners around, and soaking themselves in the sun to get the perfect tan as well. It was a little bit past lunch when we left the beach and returned to our hotel and prepare to leave.

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When we were all set to leave, we hired the resort’s transfer service going to the port, and cost us Php 600. It wasn’t bad at all because some could even be pricier.

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For itinerary, directions, food places and budget, feel free to click the Itinerary-_Bohol_2016[1] link.

Bohol is indeed a beautiful place, and I’m planning to come back after a few years.

Explore Bohol. https://chasingworlds.net/2017/03/30/beautiful-bohol/

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Seoul Searching

Our travel in Seoul, South Korea is another achievement unlocked. First, we did not exceed our set budget. Second, locals hardly speak English, but we managed. From getting lost and asking directions to eating unfamiliar local dishes. The language barrier is difficult, yet I have seen their efforts to help us. On the positive note, the country is safe, and you can wander all you want.

Seoul, South Korea in a glimpse of 4 days and 4 nights (08.31.16-09.04.16)

A flight to Seoul from Manila is almost 4 hours via Incheon. You may opt to travel with any of our local carriers, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and AirAsia. You may also choose to take Korean Air, Asiana, etc. We have flown with Cebu Pacific (to avail my airline benefit) scheduled to depart at past 3 in the afternoon, and arriving at around 8pm (Korea local time). Seoul is 1 hour ahead of Manila.

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Customized passport holders from JJ Market in Bangkok

After passing thru immigration, I claimed our reserved wifi kit at the arrival hall in between gates 6 and 7. I made the reservation online through KT Mobile Rental. I gave a deposit of 200000KRW, and will deduct the 27500KRW for my 5-day use. Upon returning on our last day, I got my 172500KRW deposit. When I made the reservation online, I found a discount coupon- so this rate is already discounted.

Seoul City is 45 mins away from Incheon International Airport, and to go to the city, it’s best to take the subway. I would love to try the Airport Express Train, but when we got there it was already closed. Instead, we took the other train, which stops in every station. It’s way cheaper, but the time difference is only 10 mins.

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Hoehyeon Station. Tip: Download their train app

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The fastest mode of transpo

Our hostel, New Sun Guesthouse is a 5 min. walk from Hoehyeon Station. Its location is very strategic- 5 mins away from Myeongdong and 10-15 mins from Seoul City by foot! I booked our hostel thru Airbnb app for only PHP6685 good for 4 nights and 2 persons. We have our daily complimentary breakfast and bottled water, basic toiletries, and free wifi.

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Tip: Ask the frontdesk officer for package tours if you don’t have an itinerary yet. They offer good deals.

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16 degrees Celsius upon arrival. OOTN: Hers- white top from Zara, black pants from River Island, boots from Moschino, bag from DKNY. His- pink polo from American Eagle, black slacks, black Nike roshe run sneakers.

On the night we arrived, we walked around and we reached the Namdaemun Market. We were looking for a place to eat but we cannot really decide because there was no English translation, and no one speaks English. We took a chance at this small eatery along the street and ordered barbecue and some ramen. The lady in her 50s probably, gave us free unlimited rice cakes mixed in curry, and a scrambled egg mixed with spinach. It was such a sweet gesture, appreciated by lost and hungry tourists. I love the food, but spicy is not my thing.

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Menu in Korean. We choose our food based from pictures.

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Korean chicken barbecue for 15000KRW.

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Korean chicken barbecue, spicy ramen and free unli rice cake dipped in curry

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Free spinach mixed in scrambled egg

09.01.16- Seoul City Tour

  1. Gyeongbokgung Palace  
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Entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace costs 3000KRW per head

After having our hearty breakfast, we took the train going to Gyeongbokgung Palace. There were also other palaces in the city, but we chose this because it’s the main attraction. On my next visit, I will visit Changdeokgung Palace during autumn. We availed the free 1 hour English tour to understand more of the palace’s history, and its dynasty. At the entrance stands the Joseon guards, however we did not witness the “Changing of the Guards” ceremony.

Entrance Fee: 3000KRW per head

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The palace gate with mountains in the background

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Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of the city.

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Aesthetically beautiful

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Take a closer look at the ceiling

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The other entrance facing the city

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Perfectly fitted designs

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Feel free to feed the birds

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These stones are markers. During military ceremonies in the Joseon period, men lined up according to their rank and the stones are the markers

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Built during the Joseon dynasty in 1395

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Nature appreciation

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More more trees

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King’s throne

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Flocked by tourists

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Dragon design in the middle of the ceiling

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I’m guessing: the ceiling is made of bamboos

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Monkey-like statues were placed on the roof

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Our English speaking tour guide. Tip: Check the schedules of the palace tour. Available in English, Japanese and Chinese. It’s free.

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It used to be the place of the king’s mother

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Now filled with lillies

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Random selfie with tourists in Hanbok

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OOTD: Hers- dress from Cotton On, black cardigan tied around the waist

2. National Palace Museum of Korea

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The National Palace Museum of Korea is dedicated to the relics of the Joseon dynasty. It houses all the artifacts belonging to the dynasty

Entrance Fee: Free

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The king’s chair during ceremonial parades.

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Ancient artifacts from the Joseon dynasty.

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The king’s outfit (not so sure which event he wears this)

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The dragon

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The king’s car in the early 1900s

3. Bukchon Hanok Village

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Vintage houses

It’s a street composed of traditional Korean houses. It’s their version of the “old rich” houses. Visitors may enter some houses and experience tea-time with a fee on it. Some houses were converted to cafes.

Entrance Fee: Free

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You need the strength to go up.

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A tourist strolling the area in Hanbok.

09.02.16- Chuncheon, South Korea

I arranged reservations for our out-of-town tour to avoid the hassle of getting lost via Funtastic Korea. I highly recommend that you avail their package. As compared to DIY tour vs. package tour, the difference is very little. You just have to pay a little for your convenience and comfort. I made the payment online before we left Manila. Package tour includes Nami Island, Petite France and N Seoul Tower, pick-up and drop off service to your hotel, and lunch at Mr. Dakgalbi. Our tour was on a Friday, and to my surprise, we were the only guests for that day. Lucky day indeed!

Package Tour Fee: 160000KRW for 2 persons

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The van is exclusive to us.

  1. Nami Island
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Welcome to Naminara Republic.

It’s the famous island from the Korean series Endless Love: Winter Sonata. There are two ways to get into the island, first is through a ferry ride and second is through a zipline. They say that it’s best to visit Nami Island during the autumn because the lush green forest turns into bright orange. The island itself is picturesque, romantic, and is highly appreciated by nature lovers. You may wish to walk or bike around but for a fee.

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Pay your entrance fee here.

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5 min. ferry ride that will take you to Nami Island.

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You may opt to take the zipline going to Nami Island.

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Somewhere behind is the tomb of Gen. Nami, whereas the island was named after him.

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The island map.

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OOTD: Hers- black turtle neck dress from Cotton On, scarf from Cotton On and sunglasses from Prada. His- black shirt from Nike, jeans from Uniqlo and sunglasses from Rayban.

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Winter Sonata’s first kiss took here.

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Winter Sonata souvenir shop

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You say “welcome” in different languages.

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An attempt to copy their pose.

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The bikes used in Winter Sonata

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Welcome aboard!

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Selfie with the ostrich.

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2. Mr. Dakgalbi

This is a Korean restaurant located near the parking area for Nami Island visitors. Feel free to eat the Korean chicken barbecue in a traditional way.

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Yummy!

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The lunch is part of our packaged tour.

3. Petite France

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Welcome to Petite France!

Located 20 mins. away from Nami Island, the place is dedicated to the author of the novel, The Little Prince. It’s very artsy fartsy, and I could appreciate the place because I have read the novel. The Korean series The Secret Garden was also filmed in here. If you love Korean series, you will be very familiar with the place.

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The Little Prince

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Inside a Russian museum

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Spotted: Little Red Riding Hood

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Colorful mini French village

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4. N Seoul Tower

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Standing at 236m asl.

We drove again for around an hour to get back into the city, and visit the N Seoul Tower. It is located in the Namsan Mountain, and the N Seoul Tower is the highest point around Seoul at 236m. We got a chance to look at Seoul from the bird’s eye view. Before going up at the observatory deck, you will pass by the famous love locks of Seoul. We did not have a padlock with us, and buying from souvenir shops is quite expensive, so we just ended up posing with the locks around.

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Love locks from visitors all over the world.

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A bird’s eye vew of the city.

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09.03.16- Korean Demilitarized Zone

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Our bus to Panmunjom

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Signed our lives away.

Dubbed as the most dangerous border in the world, yet it did not stop me from marking this off on my bucket list. This special place could only be accessed through special permission, and thankfully DMZ Tours exist. Based from what I have read, DMZ Tour on Saturday is provided only by a single agency. I availed the weekend package through KTB Tour and with a brave heart and soul, we visited the most dangerous border in the world. It felt like a field trip on our way in there. We belong to the English speaking group and only 5 are Filipinos including us. A tour guide explained well to us the history of the Korean War, and I was very eager to listen along with some people who seemed to be journalists, professors, historians, etc. The tour includes visit at the DMZ, JSA, Freedom Bridge, and a sumptuous lunch.

Package Tour Fee: 170000KRW for 2 persons

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Beef bulgogi for lunch.

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1. JSA

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The brown building is part of North Korea already.

JSA or Joint Security Area is the blue building where important meetings are held by the United Nations and the two Koreas. It’s literally divided into half, one from the North side, and the other from the South. It is here where treaties have been signed and has played a role in the Korean history. From the outside, you will see the building of North Korea. Picture taking is limited to two mins and limited to some areas only.

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Spotted: North Korean soldier.

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Inside the joint security area where important meetings are held and treaties were signed.

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2. Freedom Bridge

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Bridge bound to North Korea

This bridge connects the North and South Korea. During the Korean War, prisoners of war have been exchanged from each side in this famous bridge. Today, notes, banners are posted and still hoping for the unification of the North and South Korea

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Used to be an active train during the Korean war in 1950s

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Many are still hoping for a unified Korea.

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Lotte World

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Korea’s version of Disneyland.

Aside from the DMZ Tour on that day, we also had a chance to visit Lotte World. I got discounted tickets from our hostel’s front desk. It was 5pm already when we got in there, and since it’s a weekend it’s packed with foreigners and locals alike. Most rides have ridiculous lines, and I don’t want to waste our time from lining up. We ended up riding the bump cars, and kid-friendly rides. We were also just in time for the parade of Zombie characters.

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Long lines ahead.

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Pose for your caricature.

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Let them read your destiny.

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A zombie parade in the background. OOTD: Hers- black polo shirt from American Eagle. His- black polo shirt from Cotton On.

Entrance Fee: 60000KRW for 2 persons

Myeongdong

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Shopping haven

Every night of every day, we never failed to pass by Myeongdong district. It is the haven of people who love cosmetics like me. They sell Korean cosmetics at a very low price compared to the prices in Manila. Definitely a place that I will always comeback to. Street foods are sold here too, and it never failed to suffice my cravings.

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Barbecue for 3000KRW

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Hola, we’re on tv!

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Korea’s version of Yakult

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Hotdog and rice cake for 3000KRW

At the end of our mini vacation, I could assure you that I cannot handle spicy food well. No matter how good the food is. I love their street food but if you’ll convert it to Peso, it’s a bit pricey. Shopping for cosmetics is heaven in Korea. You get to buy the best for an affordable price. I will absolutely comeback to explore other places and try out more authentic Korean food during the autumn season. Do not forget to buy souvenirs. Almond peanut is my favorite, and it’s cheaper in Myeongdong.

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These little goodies were freebies from my purchases.

For the trip, our total expenses was PHP44138 all in except shopping.

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In traditional Hanbok, Korea’s national costume.

For itinerary, directions, food places and budget, feel free to click the Itinerary: Seoul 2016 link.

Summer in Seoul 2016 part 1 🇰🇷

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Part 2. Summer in Seoul 2016. 📷 #GoPro

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Part 3. 🎧 Tiësto – Footprints

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Part 4. 📽️ #FilmoraGo Mobile App.

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