10 Days in Japan- Osaka, Kyoto, Nara Itinerary

If there is a country that I would love to see in all its forms and seasons, it will be Japan.  Culture, food, transportation are surreal, and beyond expectations. My 10-day visit in Osaka, Kawaguchiko and Tokyo were not enough to make the most out of my stay in Japan. It was really a dreamy vacation, and I will definitely go back.

For Filipinos, you need a valid visa to enter Japan. You may refer to my previous post for the step by step guide to acquire a Japanese tourist visa.

I was able to score a one-way ticket for my boyfriend through Cebu Pacific’s seatsale. I was able to buy it for only PHP 2000, MNL-KIX. On the other hand, I used my company benefit to fly in and out of Japan.

Our accommodations were booked through Agoda app and Booking.com, and I got to save a bit using coupons.

For train tickets and USJ entry passes , I have booked it through Klook, and I swear that I got to save a lot using their codes. On the other hand, I booked through KKDay our 4G sim card, Tokyo Disneyland passes and airport express tickets.

For this entry I will talk about Osaka, since it was our entry point in Japan (plus Kyoto and Nara). I will make a separate post for Tokyo as well.

 

Osaka, Japan in a glimpse of 4 days and 5 nights- 06.10-14.19

Day 1- 06.10.19

We arrived in Osaka at past 8pm (Japan is 1 hour ahead of Manila), and after passing through immigration and customs, my first agenda was to claim all the train tickets and sim card I booked online. To my dismay, I overlooked the disclaimer about the Airport Express Haruka. The booth closes at 7:45pm, and we got in late and I have no choice but to buy another express train ticket that could get us at Namba Station. The Suica card cannot be used in express trains, and Shinkansen trains (the bullet train that takes you to another Japanese region). Suica can be used in JR trains, subways, buses and even at convenience stores and selected restaurants. It is already pre-loaded when bought and can be reloaded at train stations. Suica is local to Osaka, however, you can use it also in Tokyo or any place in Japan for as long as you don’t use it when crossing another region. If you have plans to go back to Japan, keep it. It is valid for 5 years and you don’t have to buy another one when you visit Japan.

When we got to Namba station, we bought some snacks from 7-Eleven, before walking towards our hostel. It was a pretty long walk because according to Google Map, it is walkable. Should I known earlier that there was a nearby station at our hostel, I would not have walked. We passed through some quiet alley with nothing but light posts and several parked bikes, only to discover later on that we passed through beside a cemetery. Never again after finding out!

We finally got in our hostel, Hotel Ikutama Love. It’s an adult only type of hotel. It’s actually spacious and has complete supply of toiletries. Our breakfast was delivered daily in our room and I’m giving it a thumbs up. The servings were big and the salmon was fresh. There was also a vendo machine in our room, and upon checking, it contains adult toys and those kinky stuff you use. What I love most about this place is, it is within center and it will not cost you a lot. Boyfriend informed the front desk that I am celebrating my birthday, and asked for my passport to verify. When we were already in our room, they gave us a small bottle of champagne and some dessert, with a lingerie as a gift.

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View from outside, they’re actually rows of it.

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Hotel’s birthday gift for me

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Breakfast were surprisingly good

 

Day 2- 06.11.19

After eating breakfast, we prepared for our DIY trip to Kyoto. We lost our way going to Fushimi-Inari Shrine because Google Map said that we need to transfer platform, only to realize that we missed the train. Nevertheless, we still made it there. Before going to the shrine, we had our lunch at a ramen place called Hiwamatanoboru. The servings were big and it was a good ramen.

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2500JPY for 2 ramen and drinks. Worth it!

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KYOTO

Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

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Once you get off at the train station you won’t lose your way going to the shrine. All visitors are walking towards it. You will pass by several souvenir and food stalls along the way.

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You use a ladle to cleanse yourself before entering temples

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Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine is a Shinto Temple. It is famous for its orange torii bamboo gates. The shrine is an hour or two hike, but we didn’t go all the way to the top because it was raining a little. After we got a bunch of pictures, we moved to our next destination.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

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Another temple that we got to visit is Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. You’ll be going through an uphill to go there. When we got there it was an hour before closing, so we decided not to go inside anymore. While having pictures, we set the camera’s timer and place it on top of something, and when we got back in our hostel, I found something creepy in one of the pictures. There is a white silhouette in a shape of a human right next to me. Don’t be surprised if you caught something in your camera. After all, temples were also  cemeteries. Spirits might be everywhere and they happened to be in my picture.

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It started to rain again when we were about to leave the temple. At 6pm, all shops have closed, and there was no place that we can stay for a while to wait for the rain to stop. When it was okay to walk again, we head towards the bus stop bound for Osaka. When we got into the stop, I was confused which stop heads towards Osaka. Google Map cannot clearly point it out. There were also no English translation in the sign boards. I chose whichever has more foreigners in it, and I ended up asking, “Going to Osaka?”, and the person I asked just nodded. When we got into the bus, we tapped our Suica cards, and found our seats at the back. I was observing everybody, how they hop on and hop off, and Google Map was on track again. Finally, I was doing it right. It took an hour and a half before we got into Osaka downtown.

OSAKA

Dotonbori

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The famous Glico man of Osaka

We finally got into the place where you’ll find the famous Glico man. I was overwhelmed with all the food stalls next to each other. I really wanted to try everything, but it was a bit expensive. Instead of having dinner, we bought several snacks such as takoyaki, kobe beef, and chicken barbecue. It was 11pm, and stalls were closing, and we decided to go back to our hostel. On our way, we passed by Lawsons, and bought some food again for our midnight cravings.

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Takoyaki for 790JPY

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This is the entry level kobe beef. Priced at 1800JPY

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200JPY per stick

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When it was our turn in the counter, all waffles have been sold out

 

Day 3- 06.12.19

NARA

Nara Park

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On my birthday, we woke up late again. After breakfast and self-prep, we went to Nara Park. It’s a 45min. train ride from Osaka. As we exit the station, I was starting to see the local deer, roaming freely around. You can feed the deer, but you have to buy their food. The deer can be aggressive, especially if they see you holding a plastic bag. Some deer tried to snatch the plastic that I was holding, and they are very strong. In fairness to the deer, when I tried bowing at them, they bowed back. Such respectful beings. The only downside of it was poops were literally around, so better be careful not to step on it.

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Warning though

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Todai-ji Temple

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We walked and walked until we reach the gates going to Todai-ji Temple. There was a small lake outside the temple, and many deer were roaming freely and resting under the trees. We did not go inside the temple, because the view outside was more than enough already.

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Kasugataisha Shrine

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We walked again towards the next shrine, and boyfriend’s feet gave up on him. Blame the Jordans for it! I just took pictures outside and didn’t bother to walk uphill. The forest where the shrine is located was so quiet, and there were even wild birds.

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Cleansing with water before entering

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Barrels of Asahi

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

I have always admired this place in pictures, so I was eager to see the place in person. It was past 5pm, and almost sunset, when we got at Arashiyama station. We pinned the bamboo groves, but we’re being directed to a hostel instead. When we finally found the right direction, it was so quiet, and there were no people. We still tried our best though, in fact, we reached the end, and i saw a bunch of tombstones. I turned around and walk faster and didn’t bother to look back.

OSAKA

Harukas 300

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View from top

When i booked the USJ passes, it was bundled with Harukas 300 Observatory. The place has a nice view of the city at night. We also got in here the passcode to enter USJ 15mins ahead of opening time, which unfortunately we did not use. As usual, we cannot get up early, and we ended up arriving in USJ past 9am.

Ichiran Ramen- Abenobashi

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2840JPY for 2 ramen

The very famous ramen place, where you’ll see long lines outside. For me, it was worth lining up. All the food in Japan will always be worth it. I accidentally saw this ramen place in Abenobashi, when I saw the familiar logo. Good thing, we only waited for 5 mins, as compared to the branch in Dotonbori where the lines were really long.

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Fully-equipped

Dotonbori

We were in Dotonbori, almost every night because of food. On our second night, I lined up for the Melonpan. When it was my turn to buy, they have to close the stall because their waffles have been sold out. We tried our luck again on our 3rd night, we finally had it after lining up for 10mins. Apart from the waffle, we also had gyoza that night.

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400JPY for each

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240JPY for this gyoza

 

Day 3- 06.13.19

Universal Studios Japan

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I have been to Universal Studios Singapore, and it’s totally different from the one in Japan. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is very unique at this theme park. I was so giddy when I started seeing familiar things, that I only read in books or watched in movies. While lining up for our first ride, I bought a butterbeer for us. It was overpriced, but you cannot say no to this drink, especially that we, muggles, have been looking forward to this. The highlight of the Harry Potter was the tour inside the Hogwarts Castle, and we lined up an hour just for this. We tried our best to visit each section, and try out whatever is in there. We also got a chance to meet some characters, and to watch the parade at night. From time to time, we eat, and I have noticed that meals here were expensive than usual.

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The infamous flying car

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Line to Hogwarts

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Hogwarts Express

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650JPY for each butterbeer

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Cheers, muggles!

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Turkey leg and drink for 1220JPY

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Our dinner at Yoshinoya, near train station. Meal cost 2210JPY

Day 4- 06.14.19

On our last day in Osaka, we have to check out at noon. Since our bus bound for Kawaguchiko is still at night, I asked the front desk, if we can leave our luggage with them, and they were nice enough to allow us.  We went to Shinsaibashi, to check out some bags and watches, and a little bit of window shopping in Amerika-mura. I have been craving for some breakfast meals. We were looking for Egg N Things, and we didn’t find it. We ended up in a noodle house with such a big serving.

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We spent 2840JPY for our lunch at Kamukaru

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1185JPY for Pablo’s cheesecake. I tried this before, and I’m not sure why it tasted differently

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On our way to Tokyo, we have a 1 night stay in Kawaguchiko. This place is near the lake and it’s the surrounding towns of Mt. Fuji. We took a bus and traveled  for 9 hours. Normally, people will take a bullet train to transfer to another region, but I find this expensive, and I wanna save money from another hotel booking. It’s also a different route we took, because we came from Osaka going to Tokyo, instead of the reverse, which is the usual route. I tried my best looking for buses that operate Osaka-Tokyo, and to my dismay there was none, until I landed in a Japanese website. I clicked the translate and it worked in English. I found Fujikyuko Bus that travels from Osaka to Kawaguchiko. Just perfect for our itinerary. They have a terminal at Abenobashi, and we waited there until our bus arrived.

That’s how our adventure in Osaka ended. I am definitely going back to Osaka. I still need to see the Osaka Castle, Umeda Bldg, Denden Town, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves, Rinku Outlet, etc. For those who love food, I highly recommend Osaka. You’ll never go wrong, and after all, it has been tagged as Japan’s Kitchen.

 

BUDGET BREAKDOWN

For the total expenses in Japan: PHP 56 030.779/ head without shopping

Exchange rate- 0.4790PHP to 1JPY

Ikutama Love Hotel- PHP 9181.472/head for 4 nights with breakfast

Harukas 300/USJ Entry Pass- PHP 4731.3/head

Meal- PHP 6731.1475/head

Transpo-PHP 4530.2/head

Misc.- PHP182.02/head

Total Expenses in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara(alone)- PHP 20624.84/head  

 

Sweet Escape to Singapore

After a good 5 years, I accidentally got back in Singapore last August. It was not part of my travel plans since I still have other places to explore. However, given our situation, I am now required to visit Singapore, at least every other month (you’ll do anything for love, right?)

Singapore is the epitome of a modern, sophisticated, and chic city. No wonder why this city is one of the world’s most expensive city to live at. So what’s the difference now after 6 years? I used to stay in Choa Chu Kang, nearby Woodlands (your gateway to Malaysia), and this time, we’re staying in Telok Blangah, nearby Harbourfront (just a few thousand steps to Sentosa). Before, I came to visit for leisure, this time I come to visit for love. Before, I’d be taking trains and cabs more often, but now, I got to memorize which bus number should I be riding, and if it’s past midnight, we take the Grab (Hello South East Asia!) We got to explore more places, and even the less tourist-y side.

Arrival in Singapore

I remember, back then we didn’t arrive in Terminal 4, because terminal 4 is relatively new. I still consider Changi Airport as my best airport in the world (Yes, I got to see a bunch already, and Changi boasts world class!)

Transportation

6 years ago, Grab app was not an option. It’s either you take the bus, train or your regular taxi. Whenever I arrive, I choose to take the Grab for convenience. It’s too hassle to move around carrying 2 luggage and I need to transfer from train to bus. If I take the bus or train, I use the EZ-link MRT card. You can buy this at train stations for SGD 10, pre-loaded already. It’s a stored value MRT card, and I just reload it every time it gets below minimum. I also suggest that you download the Citymapper app. It helps you plan your travel, and the timings are very accurate. It also works offline. Just in case, you no longer have an internet connection, the app will remind you when you need to alight the bus or train, make sure to set point A to point B. However, if you are with senior citizens or babies, it’s best to take Grab.

Wi-fi Connection

Free wi-fi is almost everywhere, especially in tourist-y areas.

Attractions

  • Merlion Park– You’ll surely meet and greet with the symbol of Singapore. Just a few months back, the Merlion went to a restoration, but now it’s open again for public viewing. Aside from the Merlion, you get a view of Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, and the Singapore Flyer. (Free)
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    Merlion, Symbol of Singapore

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  • Haji Lane– Located in the Kampong Glam District, you’ll see a lane of artsy fartsy cafes filled with murals and graffiti. The area gives you a very chill atmosphere. (Free)20180901_173623-01[1]20180901_173823-01[1]20190208_150645-02[1]DSC01092-01[1]DSC01080-01[1]DSC01088-01[1]

 

  • Masjid Sultan– Also located in Kampong Glam, this mosque is an important focal point for Muslims in Singapore. You can enter inside the mosque, and their staff will lend you an abaya or a robe, if you’re non-Muslim. After visiting the mosque, you can stroll in nearby Arab St. and Baghdad, and you’ll find a bunch of Mediterranean restaurants, as well as stores that sell goodies from Middle East. (Free)20190208_152104-01[1]20190208_152116-01[1]20180901_174516-01[1]

 

  • Universal Studios Singapore– I’ve been here before, but I went back here around last week of September. Just in time for the opening of Halloween Horror Nights. They have set-up at least 5 horror/haunted houses, with different themes. For 2018, one of their houses featured a Netflix series, which is the Stranger Things. We were in the line for about 2 hours! For the rest of the houses, the line was pretty fast moving. The other haunted houses include Killuminati, The House of Oiwa, Pontianak, and Pagoda of Peril. Zombies were around too, especially in the areas of Apocalypse Earth and Cannibal Blood and Bones. Apart from the Halloween special at USS, we were able to ride also the Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride 3D, without having to line up. (SGD 58- Gen. Ad. Non-Peak)
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  • S.E.A. Aquarium & Maritime Experiential Museum– The aquarium in Sentosa Island is home to various sea species. Surprisingly, the place was packed with tourists even if it was a weekday. For the museum, it featured the expeditions or explorations that passed through Singapore in the old days. (SGD 40) 20190207_150501-01[1]

 

  • Skyline Luge and Skyride– This is one of the thrilling  activities offered in Sentosa Island. We availed for the 2 luge and skyrides combo (SGD 24)LUSGAACD97H123043_1809271030564-pre-01[1]20180927_145900-01[1]

 

  • Singapore Cable Car– We took a one way ride from Merlion Station going to Harbourfront (SGD 15)20190207_192518-01[1]View from the cable car

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  • ArtScience Museum– This is the iconic landmark that you can see near Marina Bay Sands. It houses different exhibits. During our visit, we gaze upon Future World and Minimalism. (SGD 27- We got the local’s rate)20181129_162420-01[1]Screenshot_20190601-043619_Instagram-01[1]Screenshot_20190601-043628_Instagram-01[1]Screenshot_20190601-044202_Drive-01[1]

 

  • Garden’s by the Bay– If garden, plants and flowers are your thing, then this should not be missed. The place is beautifully curated. We got a chance to see the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. (SGD 18- We got the local’s rate)0101-2019-1029346117797925268244-01[1]20190206_171617-01[1]20190206_171801-01[1]20190206_175542-01[1]DSC01195-01[1]DSC01197-01[1]

 

  • National Museum of Singapore– We had a chance to visit during a holiday, and surprisingly, it’s free. It features different eras of Singapore which includes pop culture, religion, history, etc. (FREE- it was a holiday when we visited) DSC01174-01[1]DSC01178-01[1]DSC01175-01[1]DSC01179-01[1]20190206_131320-01[1]

 

  • Marina Bay Carnival– This carnival was up for a few months beside Marina Bay Mall. It’s your typical carnival wherein you have the game booths and ride or die kind of ride. (FREE  if you’ll just go around and not take any ride or play in the booths)20190213_184252-01[1]20190213_193915-01[1]20190213_194207-01[1]

 

  • Telok Blangah Hill Park– It has a nice trail wherein you can walk or jog at whatever time of the day. It leads all the way to Mt. Faber through a suspension bridge. (FREE) 20180927_113538-01[1]20180927_115445-01[1]20180927_121405-01[1]

 

  • Chinatown– Never miss a Chinatown in every country that you visit. The place is very festive, and colorful. You can bargain for the things that you wanna buy. (FREE) 20190208_104222-01[1]20190208_121535-01[1]20190208_121632-01[1]

 

MALLS, CAFES, RESTAURANTS

  • Jewel Changi– This is a newly opened mall just across Terminal 1. Apart from boutiques and stores, it has also a nice architecture, which includes an indoor waterfall.20190426_210659-02[1]

 

  • Selfie Coffee Cafe– Passed by this unique cafe along Haji Lane. Your selfie will be on top of your coffee.20180901_163826-01[1]20190208_142128-01[1]

 

  • Hawkers– Every corner seems to have a hawker. Price varies depending if it’s a touristy side or not. It serves all kinds of local favorites. My faves, however, are Newton ,Chinatown and the one in Geylang. 20190206_150315-01[1]20190206_150321-01[1]20190206_150511-01[1]20190208_112337-01[1]20190207_114146-02[1]

 

  • IMM Mall (in Jurong East), Changi Point– If you’re into outlets, don’t forget to pass by these malls. If you have spent a minimum SGD 100 in a single receipt, you are entitled for a tax refund (applies to tourists only)

 

  • Toastbox– I’ve been a Toastbox girl ever since. Never miss this one, for that Singaporean vibe without going to a hawker. 20190206_110917-01[1]

 

  • IKEA– Since we do not have this in Manila, it’s like a haven for our furniture and home shopping needs.

 

  • Central Perk Cafe– If you’ve been watching FRIENDS, then this is a must see. It recreated the set of the series. It’s located near Clarke Quay. Prices can be a little over than average.20180924_195229-01[1]20180924_200432-01[1]

 

  • Bugis Junction, Mustafa (Little India), Fire Sale Grocery– For your souvenirs and pasalubongs, you gotta give this a visit. It sells the cheapest yet quality items.

Since I will be frequent in Singapore, I’ll make another entry sometime soon to share another side of Singapore.

 

A Day in the East, Mt. Daraitan

“Salt water is the cure for anything- sweat, tears or even the sea.” I have always been the beach type of person. I could stay in the beach for as long as I want and enjoy the waves while I watch the sunrise or sunset. My country is so blessed with many pristine beaches, and I have a lifetime to visit them all. Aside from the beautiful beaches, we are also blessed with mountains that boast breath-taking views and home to many lives. I have visited a few, and would love to see more. However, my work schedule and physical fitness are giving me a hard time to conquer the mountains. I work on a shifting basis, and I do not have a permanent sleeping pattern. You definitely need a goodnight’s sleep before going up the mountains. Second, you need to be physically fit in order to get up and continue moving. Different mountains have different assaults, trails, and difficulties. If you have not prepared, you will likely have a hard time climbing up the mountains.

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I have visited several mountains before, some are volcanic in nature, others are home to breath-taking falls. There is always this enchanting experience whenever I go for a climb. It feels like I’m in a different world/dimension. There are still a lot to see, and I wish to visit all of them. I’m hoping and praying for strength and safety, so I could pay them a visit.

Last December, my friends, invited me for a climb. To be honest, I was not totally prepared for it, but I was game to do it. December weather is way better than the scorching heat of summer, just kept our fingers crossed that it will not rain. We were on a search on which mountain are we gonna climb. We selected it based on location, summit view, and difficulty. We ended up with Mt. Daraitan, in Tanay, Rizal. Just about 2 hours away from Manila. It offers an amazing view of the country’s east side and the Sierra Madre range. It also holds a difficulty of 4/9, which means that it’s a minor climb and beginner friendly.

12.08.18- Mt. Daraitan, Tinipak River in Tanay, Rizal/General Nakar, Quezon

A few days before our planned trip, we searched for “group tours”, on Facebook’s Buhay Bundok group. It’s not really a group tour, but rather, you’ll be all coming from Manila and taking a van going to Tanay, Rizal and back, and your group will be given a local tour guide. This is the best way to visit Mt. Daraitan, as their government is limiting the people going up to the mountain. It is also mandatory to get a local tour guide, because it’s for your own safety, and they know their mountains well, and you are helping their livelihood. The base of Mt. Daraitan is very countryside, and locals live through their tourism.

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Trivia: Mulawin, the series, was shot here

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Mt. Daraitan is partly Tanay, Rizal and partly General Nakar, Quezon

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Our local guide

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Our group met up in Mcdonald’s Shaw at 12 midnight, and we arrived in Daraitan, Tanay at around 2 in the morning. There was a cold breeze, and little drops of rain and we were welcomed by sellers of flashlight, gloves, warmers, etc. If you have forgotten to bring some of the essentials, worry not, it’s available in the area. It is very important that you know how to balance yourself as we stood on a bamboo raft to get us to the other side. Then a 10 min. ride trike, took us to the barangay hall for our briefing (the DO’s and DON’Ts), registration and introduced us to our guides. Before starting our trek, we were given an ample time to eat breakfast and do our bathroom breaks, so at exactly 4am, we started moving.

As we moved up, it’s getting muddier, slippery, and steeper. The rain wasn’t also stopping, so imagine the hassle. Thank God for flashlights, tree barks, and occasional man-made handles. We were literally grasping for every rock that we can reach. We were already near the 1st station, when I can loudly hear my heartbeat. We tried moving again, but this time, my friend’s shoes gave up. Since it wasn’t safe to carry on, we decided to go down, and instead, we trekked along the Tinipak River. The crowd along the river is opposite of the mountain. It was getting crowded as groups of people started hiking, while it was only the 4 of us (my 2 friends and I, plus our guide) who were trekking along the river. We enjoyed it more! The whole place was just to ourselves. It was so quiet that you can only hear the gushing of water and the chirping of birds. Tinipak River is one of the clearest waters I have ever seen and it was so clean. We enjoyed wading in the water.

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We had a hearty breakfast meal near the river, before we continued moving to the rock formations. Again, it was all to ourselves. According to our guide, they do not classify Mt. Daraitan as a beginner’s hike because of it’s 90 degrees assault, and 4/9 difficulty increases especially when it rains. For them, it is not a minor hike. Now, I’m wondering why it is classified under beginner’s hike, when according to locals it is not an easy hike.

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It has been a good day despite of not reaching the summit (but we’ll get there too), we were one with nature, and it’s just good to be with her.

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Budget:

PHP 850/pax for RT van transfer Manila-Daraitan, registration fee, guide fee, environmental fee

PHP 100 (up to you) my tip for our guide

PHP 20- use of shower rooms

PHP 200- total I spent on meals

 

Vietnam Vibes

Vietnam may be popular as part of the Indochina backpacking series (Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos-Thailand), so most travelers under this category, spend only a night or 2 in the city of Ho Chi Minh, before moving to another country. We were in Vietnam for 4 days, and you’ll never go wrong if you want good food, budget and city vibes in your itinerary.

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Saigon City Hall at night

Ho Chi Minh is an hour behind Manila and would take about 2.5 hours of flight. Based from my experience, your budget will have a long way to go because Vietnam is actually cheaper than Manila, and it’s best to bring US dollars. You can have it exchanged in Vietnam Dong at the airport for your Grab fare or taxi fees, and the rest around the Ben Thanh Market for good rates.

Ho Chi Minh, VIetnam in a glimpse of 3 days, 3 nights (06.10.18-06.13.18)

Our flight was via Cebu Pacific and left Manila around 10pm, and arriving a little past midnight (Vietnam time) at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. We had our dollars exchanged for their local currency to pay our Grab ride. Airport to our hostel in District 1 was about 20 mins., and we were charged 108K VD. My parents and sisters arrived a day earlier than us, so they were already in the room when we arrived.

We stayed at Polygon Hostel, which is a few blocks from Ben Thanh Market. We had a good deal from Agoda, and booked it for only PHP 9659.52, considering we’re 5, all with breakfast buffet. We just made additional payments for early and late check in that cost us 1M VD. It was a total of  597/hd per day. Good deal indeed. The hostel was the perfect one if you’re looking for strategic location, value for money, complimentary breakfast, and staff that speak good English. If you’re a first timer, their lift is quite shocking. It stated that it can fit 8 pax. We’re 5 when we took the lift, and we were packed inside. It turns out that most buildings have that size of a lift. It was really small and I think it was made for locals. I barely saw a fat or big Vietnamese.

Since we arrived at midnight and we were hungry, my parents recommended a nearby Japanese restaurant. The restaurant was already closing, but thanks to my sister’s convincing powers and the staff welcomed us. Each of us got a rice meal and gyoza and our bill was a little more of 1000PHP but not more than 2000PHP.

06.11.18- Independence Palace, Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

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Independence Palace

We woke up at past 7 for our breakfast before going for a walk. Our first stop was the Independence Palace. It’s about 10-15 mins. walk from our hostel. Independence Palace played a vital role during the Vietnam War in the 60s-70s. It used to house the French Governor during the French Colonial Period, and the South Vietnamese force during the war. Many historical events occur in that building. The interiors were preserved from how they look like nearly 50 years ago. Some of the fighter planes were also on display at the grounds of the palace. Entrance is at 65000VD.

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Pres. Nguyen’s office

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First Lady’s Portrait

It was really hot that day, and at the same time my mom was experiencing jet lagged.  We were forced to leave earlier than expected because my mom was having a headache. We took a cab going to our hostel. We stayed at the hostel until our tour fetched us at the hostel.

It was past lunch when our tour group arrived. We were taken to the Cu Chi area, an hour away from downtown. Cu Chi Tunnel was a base camp used by Vietcong. They lived in the tunnel during the war, and have the complete supplies to survive. I would really say that Vietnamese are smart people based from the tactics used by the guerrillas. Everything was planned out well, that Americans couldn’t spot their enemies. We were toured around the area, and showed us how everything was well maintained down under. We were also given the chance to go under the tunnel and tried to fit ourselves going down and up from the tunnel. The effects of the war have lasted until today. You’ll see bomb craters, and the effects of Agent Orange (chemicals used to kill crops and forests) to  forests and  even to humans. You’ll get to see how traps are made, and even their combat sandals. We get to taste tapioca (local cassava), which was their food while living in the tunnel. You also get a chance to fire a gun, but for a fee. Our tour only includes transfers, tour guide, cassava, and entrance to Cu Chi Tunnel. Our tour was booked from Klook. It was 22USD per head and we availed the premier tour. I still got a 5USD discount from the total because of my rewards points from previous bookings.

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Viet slippers are weather proof and leaves no trace of footprint

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Making of bombs

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A kind of trap made by the Viets

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One of the entrances to the tunnel

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Bomb crater

When we got back to our hostel it was past 5 in the afternoon and rested for a while before we had our dinner. While looking for some restaurants to have dinner we spotted the Saigon Street Food Market. We went inside and we didn’t go wrong because it was a haven of good food. We had pho, barbecue, and some rare fruit juice for drinks, and it was in big servings. I didn’t quite expect that good food will come this cheap.

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06.12.18- Mekong Delta, Saigon Cathedral, Post Office, Opera House and City Hall

DSC00976-01The next day, it was my birthday, and we had the whole day for tour. After breakfast, we were picked up by our group tour bound for Mekong Delta. It’s roughly a 2-hour bus ride from our hostel in downtown Ho Chi Minh. Before we reached Mekong Delta, we had a stop over at Vinh Trang Pagoda, a Buddhist temple and monastery.

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After several minutes, we transferred to a ferry ride going to Unicorn Island. We were welcomed by folk singers and served with native fruits and tea. We had a tour to the cocoa, honey and coconut production. We had the option to buy their products as souvenirs. Part of our tour was to be served with local lunch and a cruise down the Mekong Delta tributary, it’s actually like a swamp. We availed the tour from Klook and bought the premier tour for Mekong Delta full day tour at 25USD per head.

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Native fruits and tea were served

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A folk singer sang to me their version of Happy Birthday song

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Cacao drying before turning into coffee

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Candies for souvenirs

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Snake wine

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After the Mekong Delta tour, we still have time to go around the city. We had the chance to see French architecture through the Saigon Cathedral, Post Office, Opera House and City Hall. We wanted to go inside but the cathedral is under construction, while the post office was already closed when we got there. There was an on-going show when we passed by the opera house. We didn’t bother to go in, because our stomachs were already asking for dinner.

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Saigon Cathedral

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Post Office

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We, once again, had dinner at the Saigon Street Food Market. We had a sumptuous meal for 5 persons, and believe it or not our bill didn’t go over PHP 2000. You’ll never go hungry and broke when you’re in Vietnam.

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06.13.18- War Remnants Museum, Lunch Lady

After having breakfast, we went out for a walk until we reach the War Remnants Museum. It is a museum dedicated to the Vietnam-America War in the 60s till 70s. You get to see to see the planes and choppers used by the Americans, as well as the impact of the war to the civilians.

After our museum tour, we hailed a cab going to district 4 where the famous Lunch Lady is at. I was actually expecting a restaurant when we arrive, but what we saw were few tables and chairs in the middle of an alley. I’ve learned about the Lunch Lady from Anthony Bourdain, wherein he features local dish of every country that he gets to visit. It was not a disappointment to spend our lunch with the Lunch Lady. We ordered a set meal, and it was so good and in large servings. Definitely good food! A little bit around PHP 2500 were spent for lunch, and definitely worth it.

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Sumptuous lunch for 5

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With the famous Lunch Lady

In the evening, we flew back to Manila and bought some souvenirs from the airport, since we didn’t have a chance to go around our hostel after having lunch.

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Free cake from our hostel coz it’s my birthday

Budget for this trip:

Accommodation- PHP 11900.3 (3 days plus early and late check-in fee, 5 pax with breakfast)

Cu Chi Tunnel Tour- PHP 5250 (5 pax with snack; premier tour)

Independence Palace Tour- VND 65000 (PHP 146 per head)

Mekong Delta Tour- PHP 6250 (5 pax with lunch and fruits/snacks; premier tour)

War Remnants Museum Tour- VND 40000 (PHP 90 per head)

Lunch/Dinner- PHP 7000 (5 pax; large servings)

Taxi- PHP 1000 (assuming, including airport transfer)

TOTAL-PHP 32580.3 for 4 days (PHP 6516.06 per head without airfare and shopping)

Cooling Down in Calaguas

All the 8-hour van ride and 2-hour boat trip were worth it. There may be no phone signals nor electricity, but it is still worth visiting Calaguas Islands in Vinzons, Camarines Norte. I’ve read and heard stories about the boat ride going to Calaguas, and most of the time, they will share how wild the waves are, since it is in the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully, the weather was nice and the sea was calm, going to and back from Calaguas when we sailed out.

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Weekday in Calaguas

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DIY Calaguas Tour organized by Grezel aka Byaherang Barat (4th from left) along with friends who love to travel

I was on my 5-day leave, and I was supposed to go to Bali. However, my favorite travel buddy has work, and we have to adjust for his 2 days-off. He insisted that we go around the country instead. It was a choice of either Calaguas or Sagada, since his off was falling on a weekday, we almost had no chance of going to Calaguas. Calaguas trips are usally on weekends. Do it on a weekday, make sure that you’re bringing all your friends to share the expenses or you have the money to splurge for 2 people. I searched for DIY tours, and it usually falls on a weekend or a holiday. Fortunately, I chanced upon the post of Byaherang Barat on Facebook, and she was looking for joiners in her Calaguas Weekday Trip.

Without hesitations, I messaged her. She was very responsive and has answered all my inquiries. DIY tour that she organizes for Calaguas is good for 12 pax (we were only 9 in our tour though), and includes almost everything: Roundtrip van transfer from Manila to Vinzons port, roundtrip boat transfer from Vinzons port to Calaguas, environmental fees, island fees, tents, buffet meal for day 1 and 2 (2 lunches, dinner and breakfast), island hopping, trekking, snorkeling gears and kayak. There were no hidden charges. Our tour was charged at Php 3400/head. I was very satisfied and happy in joining her tour, Good thing that it was also a weekday, the whole stretch was almost ours. I highly recommend her if you want to join DIY tours, and she has plenty of places to visit.

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Meet Byaherang Barat

Calaguas Island in a glimpse of 3 Nights and 2 Days (05.07.18-05.09.18) 

We met on May 7, 9pm at McDonald’s Shaw. We had dinner first (own account) before leaving at 10pm. Exactly 10pm, we left. We traveled for about 8 hours, with several stops in Laiya, Lucena, and Pagbilao. It was around 6am, when we got in Daet for breakfast (own account).

05.08.18- Calaguas Island

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Vinzons Port

At past 7am, we boarded our boat from Vinzons Port. It was a river port, then later on connecting to the Pacific Ocean. It was a smooth boat ride for 2 hours.

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Upon arrival, our tents have been assembled, and we get to choose our own.

DSC00699_1-01Since it was still early for lunch, we swam in the sea until noon. For lunch we were served with ginataang santol, tuna, shrimp, and watermelon. It was unlimited food for everyone.

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Lunch for everyone

We went back to the sea at 2pm, and didn’t mind the heat at all, and lasting until sunset. For dinner, we were served with bicol express, laing, seafoods and pineapples. Honestly, it was the sweetest pineapple I have ever tasted. Before the night ends, we had a little drinking session, and for everyone to have a chitchat.

 

 

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Tinaga Island of Calaguas Group of Islands

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Lovers in Calaguas

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Sunset in Calaguas

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05.09.18- Island Hopping, Trekking

We were up by 5am, because the sky was already bright. We walked along the shore for the nice morning breeze before having breakfast. Breakfast includes scrambled egg, sword fish, danggit, salted egg, and another type of fish which I forgot. After breakfast, we hopped into the boat and went to another island for trekking and picture taking. The other island has a cool view comparable to Batanes. Although, we went at the wrong time since Mr. sun was shining brightly already. It’s best to go trekking early in the morning or before sunset.

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Afterwards, we head for snorkeling. We had a good hour of snorkeling in the open sea. It was at 10am, when we got back in the main island. We still had a good time for swimming before having lunch. For lunch, we had lechon kawali, pork adobo, and seafoods. After lunch, we walked around to buy a souvenir, which I got for Php 75.

A little past 1pm we left Calaguas, and before heading home, we bought several goodies and pineapples.

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What’s not to love

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Nobody else in the shore but him

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Balagbag Island- where we trekked and had a little view of Batanes

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Budget for this trip:

Php 3400- DIY Tour all in/head

Php 900- 2 Dinners and Breakfast (own account for 2 pax)

Php 600- Souvenirs and other pasalubongs (2 bags of pili tart, 1 bottle of pili nuts, 1 bottle of laing and 1 bottle of bicol express)

Php 100- 10 pcs of pineapples (bought in the highway)

Php 75- ref magnet

Total: Php 8475 for 2 pax all in including souvenirs

 

Anawangin, 5 years ago

Pundaquit Shore, I have been visiting this place since the 90s, thanks to our cousin in law who hails from this beautiful place. Most of the time, I was just in the sand and playing because the waves were too high (which after several years becomes a surfing destination) and the oldies will always say that once you go far, the waves will throw you to the other island across, which happens to be Capones Island (which I got to visit only in 2013). However, I only got a chance to see Anawangin Cove in 2010 (I believe this is an Aeta Village). Thanks to my aunts and cousins who pushed for the island hopping tour.

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2010: Pundaquit Shore

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Anawangin 2010

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2010: with my aunt

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All to ourselves, Anawangin 2010

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Anawangin 2010

 

Take me back, 5 years ago.

2013

Not long ago, when I first visited the remote coves of Anawangin. It was in 2010, when I first stepped into this beautiful beach. This can be reached through boat (20 mins) or trekking (not sure how long though). We opted for the boat, because a cousin in law, happens to have an uncle with a boat. There were no phone signals nor electricity in the area, and only a single store to cater your basic needs. The whole stretch was ours, and it was crystal clear clean. After 3 years, I was back with my officemates. It was Holy Week, for sure there will be a lot of people to flock the place. Indeed, I was right. The camp site were full of tents, and full of people.

 

 

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Anawangin 2013

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Anawangin & Capones: 3 Days 2 Nights

For this trip, our good friend drove for us from Makati to Zambales. Our first stop was at Pundaquit Market in San Antonio, Zambales. We bought all our fresh food from here, which was good for 3 days. We shared 500/head for our food. It was more than enough for 5 people to share. After 20 mins., we were at Pundaquit shore to meet our boatman, who happened to be our tour guide too. We haggled and he gave us 5000 for 3 days 2 nights that includes boat transfer, island hopping tour, camping needs/tools, trekking and even offered his house to shower on the last day. 1000/head was a good deal! The whole trip cost us 2500/head, which was pretty good, since we didn’t share our trip with other tourists.

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Capones Island

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Spring at Anawangin

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Anawangin view from top

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Trekking

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The lone store

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Quite pricey for 50 bucks

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Fast-forward 2018

I’m not sure if the place remains to be the same, without any electricity or phone signal. I wonder if it is still the same that they set up tents and they do bonfire. Last thing I remember, goods from the store were pricey. A bottle of beer would cost you 50 bucks. Since it’s known to many now, I wonder if it is still peaceful like how it used to be.

 

 

 

 

Day Trip in Macau

Macau, just like Hong Kong, is a special administrative region of China. They were liberated from the Portuguese in 1999, after centuries of being a colony. The Portuguese/European influence is still very evident in Macau, from its architecture to its food. Portuguese is also widely spoken in Macau as compared to English. Just like Hong Kong, it is a 2-hour plane ride from Manila, but since we were coming from Hong Kong, it only took us an hour of ferry ride.

Macau is famous for its casinos, and has been dubbed as the Las Vegas of Asia. True enough, there were plenty of hotel casinos around, but aside from that Macau is a bit known for its yummy street foods.

Macau Day Trip- 06.11.17

We took the first ferry ride out of Hong Kong, to catch our tour in Macau. It was through Klook.com that I booked a round trip ticket via Cotai Water Jet. The trip departs at HK-Macau Ferry Terminal in Hong Kong, and arrives at Taipa Ferry Terminal in Macau. There are actually 2 ferry terminals in Macau, so just make sure that you take note which ferry terminal that you’ll be arriving at.

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TKW Sightseeing Tour

We needed to transfer to the other terminal to meet our tour group. Our first activity in Macau is to join the TKW tour, which covers places like the St. Paul Ruins, Fortaleza do Monte, A-Ma Temple, Instituto Cultural, Koi Kei Bakery, etc. and with an English speaking tour guide. The tour also includes a lunch buffet at a 4-star hotel. We also had an ample time to try out local pastries and food, after which we had bags of goodies from their local bakeries. This can be actually a DIY activity, but since it’s part of our pre-booked activities from iVenture, I just opted that we use it. There was actually a continuation of the tour after our lunch, but since we have the iVenture package, we needed to leave the group, and go to our next activity.

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Fortaleza do Monte

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Trying to view the city from the fort

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St. Paul Ruins

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Instituto Cultural

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Souvenirs

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A-Ma Temple

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Koi Kei Bakery

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It tastes really good

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Meat jerky

Macau Tower

The tour bus dropped us off outside the Macau Tower a little bit past 2pm. Our ticket includes the entrance to the observatory deck, which is at the 58th floor. You get to see a 360 degree view of Macau, and some parts of its neighboring China. Aside from the city view, you get to see people walking around the tower’s edges, and people who bungee jump from the 61st floor. The bungee jump would cost around PHP 20 000, which in my opinion, I’d rather spend on food, travel and shopping. My sister was game to do it, and I was too, but I was being my kuripot self, and of course, I was thinking, what if I didn’t make it down alive. Likewise, the boyfriend was not supportive of the idea. One, he’s not an adrenaline junkie. Second, it’s a one time big time shot and it’s like burning my money. (the only time that I would burn my money is when I do sky-diving.) We just watched and gladly cheered for those who dared to jump, and in fairness, it took them minutes before they could really jump. Reality has probably sunk in, or they haven’t anticipated how high they would be jumping from.

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The highest tower in Macau

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View from the tower

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This kid is a brave soul

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Preparing before jumping

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World's highest commercial bungee jump at 233m. 🙊

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Viva La Broadway 

By 3pm, we left for the Broadway Show. I appreciate shows like this, because I know how demanding rehearsals can be. It was a short show, and my companions fell asleep too. I was laughing all by myself, so I told them that I will never bring them to watch a broadway show again. I will never pay for an expensive show and they’ll just end up sleeping. After watching the show, of course, they got hungry. I got a dinner set meal, which is part of the iVenture package. There were a couple of restaurants to choose from, and we chose the one that serves dumplings.

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We weren’t able to do casino/hotel hopping due to lack of time, because we needed to catch our trip back to Hong Kong. It would have been nice to see Macau at night. I could just imagine how alive the place is at night. I could go back to Macau for a beginner’s luck, and to try out different street foods again. Definitely love the egg tart!

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Ferry ride back to Hong Kong

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

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

When Disaster Aftermath Leads 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