Batanes: Dream Come True (Day 1)

Let me start by saying that I have been attempting  to write about this trip since the day that I got back here in Manila. I’ve written several drafts and and over a dozen opening paragraphs but I feel my words aren’t justifying the experience, moreover, I feel that the photos that I have taken does not even show how beautiful the province is as most of them were actually just snap shots and not photos that I have taken time to compose properly because I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the place. Most of the time I’d just take a snap shot and then continue to gaze through my eyes, there were even times that I wasn’t able to take photos at all because I was like hypnotized!

So here’s my story to tell.

I’ve been dreaming of going to Batanes ever since even to a point that I thought that it was all going to be just left as a dream here in my head. I mean going to Batanes is really expensive, ranging between 15,000 to 20,000 pesos for a return flight, until Philippine Airlines launched flights going there and then I saw light! This is it! Without any hesitation I booked that flight with what was left from my allowance for the month telling my self ill forget about my weekly coffee doze for this I know it’s worth more than what I’ll be sacrificing for several weeks

They say that Batanes is the only place in the Philippines that has more than two seasons, they have winter! I wasn’t expecting to see Frosty but something similar to the winter I felt in Taipei.

This was suppose to be a Solo Trip but having travel blogger friends  you’d always be in for a surprise. As I sit comfortably in the boarding area I checked my facebook and voila! Marky of Nomadic Eperiences was on the same flight as I am!

There are very few times that I feel nervous when traveling and this is one of them. This is something that I have been looking forward to for the longest time, one of those that you can call “Childhood Dreams”. I can’t really figure out what to feel. This is one of my dream destination! I don’t know what to expect or to expect anything at all. I have this thing that I try not to expect to see what I see on pictures because of most of the time they just disappoint me.

As soon as we landed it was like watching TV. Everything.Is.The.Way.You.Think.It.Would.Be!

The Basco aiport is small, but just enough. As soon as I got out of the arrival area I was greeted by familiar faces! There they were, Ferds of ironwulf.net and Chyng of No Spam, No Virus, No Kidding. There are more of us on the island. Ferds invited us for dinner at the Pension Ivatan for an authentic Ivatan feast.

The inn that I chose to stay with picked me up with a van from the airport, after a few turns we were actually at the inn already! It was about five minutes walk from the airport! hahaha! I was like I thought that it was going to be far but hey, oh we’re here already! hahaha!

Marky and his friends down near the port at Shanedels. After settling in my awesome big room  at Time Travel Lodge I rented a bike and met them at their hotel’s restaurant. After eating a bit we went off to start our journey. Our agenda that  afternoon was to bike around the North Batan Island Tour loop, basically biking around the tourist spots up north of the island.

We first pedaled to the Basco Lighthouse up in Naidi Hills. Well truth is there wasn’t much pedaling that happened… hahahaha…. It was mostly uphill and trying to pedal all the way up is just ridiculous, I don’t wanna die yet! hahaha! We left our bikes on the last hill that we have to go up that leads to the lighthouse .

A final push with all of my will and we found our selves on top of the hill that gives us a great view of the town. All the pushing and pedaling way uphill was all worth it… ika nga may sukli ka pa. We spent the whole morning there taking photos and hanging out up on the light house admiring the view from the top.

The wind was blowing gracefully and you can just feel at peace with your surrounding at the lighthouse. Yes, I am struggling with words right now, like I said I can’t justify what I saw with what you see and read on this post.

Of course going back down the hill was peanuts…. but at the foot of the hill another challenge was waiting for us the road to the Vayang Hills was another uphill challenge, I wish that I am speaking figuratively here….. but no…. Again we guided our bicycles with us and forget about pedaling uphill… hahaha….

The road seemed like it was never ending then to some point it felt like it was leading to the sea.

We… Uhm well at least I remember I was running crazy like people on the Sound of Music were, yep while singing the hills are alive with the sound of music! hahaha! The view on top of the Vayang Hills is really breathtaking. It’s like… damn… well like a post card… a painting… ugh… I just don’t have the words….

From the top of the Vayang Hills we road our bike like a roller coaster on the loose. No pedaling needed. The journey downhill was just a joy.

We rested for a bit, ate some snacks at a local canteen. The prices were kinda weird, vegetables were a lot more expensive than beef. I ate beef. hehehe.

After  packing up some calories in preparation for the rest of the day, we pushed forward with the Japanese Tunnel in our mind. We biked and pedaled through the road, with my lead they followed. I pedaled as if I know the place, I was confident. We were pedaling for about thirty minutes already, I think, when I thought of maybe we are lost already. I asked a local of the whereabouts of the Japanese Tunnel and was told that we have already passed by it. I then realized that we, actually just I, made  a wrong turn at the part area in the town proper that instead of turning right I turned left.

But we have pedaled far enough already and the town of Mahatao is soooo close. We decided to push through and bike all the way to Mahatao. The terrain was really challenging specially for the two of us who were using Japanes Bikes. Marky had a mountain bike. Dang! hahaha!

The road to Mahatao is simply one of the most picturesque, jaw dropping scenery that you’d ever see…. i’m just kidding, it’s more than that multiply to the power of inexplicability (yes I am using non-words already but I’m sure you get my point). I did not for a single moment regret our decision to push through. I even thought that it was a blessing in disguise to make that wrong turn! (I’ll post more photos of the route on a separate post)

Hello Mahatao!

Mahatao is the next town after Basco in the island of Batan. It is much more quieter than the island’s capital. As soon as we saw a store along the road we immediately thought of having some snacks after biking and walking with our bikes for seven kilometers of mostly uphill terrain from the town of Basco. It was more of a reflex. We were tired but really happy of the sights that we saw.

After some refreshments, we pedaled a bit more to one of the heritage churches of the island, the San Carlos Borromeo Church.

 

syempre yung picture na kasama ako…haha

The Municipio is adjacent from the church. I can really tell not much about this town, but simply that it’s beautiful small and quite. So much of what we always look for in the urban jungle of chaotic cars and buses, while we feel so little from those tall buildings. Here you feel human. You feel that you are a vital part of the system and not just another part that can be easily replaced. Here you feel life.

We explored the church and roamed around the community a bit more and decided to leave. We saw a signage pointing to a place called Diura. It is a fishing village that is famous for its dried fish that are also considered as an item that one can barter for an item within the village, not to mention its beautiful sunrise. We asked for direction and proceed.

The road to Diura is great because of the thick foliage on both sides of the road. We pedaled and pedaled until we notice that it was past four in the afternoon. It will soon get dark. We asked a local that was walking back to Mahatao if Diura was anywhere near from where we are. She replied that it was near already. We gave it a chance and agreed that it is five o’clock already and we are still on the road, that we will go back to Basco already.

Give some extra considerations when asking locals, specially when you are in the provinces. When they say that its near, for urbanites like us, it still is far. Unless the person that you speak with has an idea of what is near and far for city people. I am not being racist here ok. I am just making a  point. Defensive lang? hahaha.

Five o’clock came and a single house was not in sight. Still in the forest. We turned our bikes around and headed back to Basco. Then it occurred to me that we have a dinner appointment with Ferds! Well, I just thought, I am here and I’ll get there when I get there. I didn’t want to stress my self. This is a vacation.

Lesser uphills and more downhill rides. Good thing there were three of us who biked. The road can be dark and scary at times, we were tired and we started walking more and more than pedaling on small hills. It was logical to do so. I actually felt tired and wanted to give up and just stay where I was standing or walking for that matter at that time. But I can’t. My companions gave me the will to carry on.

It was around seven in the evening. I left them near the port where they were staying and I headed uphill near the airport where  my lodge is. I changed clothes and went to see my friends on dinner at Pension Ivatan. 

Seoul: Awesome Ewha

It’s not intended to be a tourist spot, but its architecture is just so awesome it just became one. Ewha Womens University  is just a few minutes walk away from the Sichon metro station. It is known to be one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea tracing its roots way back 1886 when it was founded by the American Methodist Episcopal missionaries.

If you are a grammar natzi you must be asking or struggling with the fact that I stated Woman and Women. Well it is not a grammatical error. It was told that the founders of the university wanted to give each woman who studies there their own identity instead of collectively recognizing them as Women.

For us guys out there won’t it be nice to be surrounded with all those beautiful women while studying? I’m pretty sure that you’ll pass your course with flying colors! If you are a Korean living in Korea, I have a bad news for you though. They do not accept men students. Yep. HOW EVER!!! If you are guy from another country, the university actually accepts international students even if they are guys! Welcome to heaven man! LOL!

But I wasn’t there to study. As I enter the university campus with my big bag and tripod, I got a bit, actually a lot, conscious about security guards. I am a Filipino and I grew up with security guards sticking their hands and sticks to whatever they can, it’s like being in North Korea where you have minders all the time. I guess we won’t feel that awk ward if we go on a trip on the other side of the border.

after admiring the beautiful autumn scenery in the campus we bought food on one of the street vendors selling great Korean food. I think South Korea has one of the best food culture just right after Taiwan (sorry, I am biased for my fave country). I bought a rice cake kinda soup and I don’t know the heck it is called, what I know is that it is yummy!

We ate in an amphitheater kind of structure right across the wedding convention center where a steady stream of newly weds come in and out of the hall.

It was great talking with a new friend over good street food on a great weather day. We had to move on, and our next stop was the N Seoul Tower

 

This post is part of my four day backpacking trip to Seoul, South Korea series

Seoul Backpacking Guide

Part 1: Arrival, Coffee Prince and Seoul N Tower

Part 2: The Palaces and Coffee Shop Experience

Part 3: The Jimjjilbang Experience and Nandaemun

Part 4: The Epilouge: Going Home

South Korea Trip Preparations

How to Apply For A Korean Visa

Hong Kong: Dad’s First Time Abroad (Day 3)

It’s our last day. Money is really low I’ve sent my sister a message if she can lend me some then I’ll pay her when I get back to Manila. I had money on my card, it was payday but I couldn’t withdraw from any bank as none accepts my bank. It was a good think I have other bank cards with visa and master card so I need not to worry.

We can’t make a move, the unforeseen expense the week just before we left’s blow still is felt. I was contemplating if we should drop a trip to the peak and just roam around parks or other free attractions. Like yesterday it was hot so we weren’t really that pressured or eager to go out that morning. We waited.

Alas! A message came in a few minutes past ten in the morning, my sister just deposited money on my Mastercard. Finally we can move!

Dad wanted to see the second hand shops that his friends were talking about so I took him back to Sham Shui Po. On our way out of the station I looked up at the map and tried to discern any hint that would tell us where those second hand electronic shops are. Then, suddenly, I saw a photo from a thought bubble with a picture of a street and on that street I saw a signage of an electronic shop. “Apliu street” I excalimed. We walked excitedly to find out if we did crack the code on the map.

It was morning time still and most of the second hand shops aren’t really established shops but are rather  street vendors, it was more like of a flea market. It was too early, these markets usually liven up with people late in the after noon till night time. We roamed around and tried to look for some other interesting things that we can find till it was noon time. There were some more vendors who are starting to setup their shops but something wasn’t feeling good at this point, my stomach.

I asked dad for us to each lunch already. I was really hungry because we didn’t each much that day. I saw this restaurant that offers Taiwanese dishes, I missing Taiwan a lot didn’t think twice and just walked right in. The signage outside with photos of what they offer had prices and it was really cheaper than most of where we have eaten.

Their menus are written in English so at least we know what we are getting. They gave a us a slip where we could place our orders, this is something that I like in Hong Kong. You get to fill up a form where they have all of what they offer are written and you get to tick them off your self to place your order. Then you take your slip to the counter next to the door so you can pay just before you leave. I like the system but I don’t know how to read Chinese. As soon as the lady gave us the slip, while she tried to go back to her post I did my best to get her attention “Wo bu hui shuo zhongwen!” (I don’t speak Chinese) It the best phrase that I can think of, I didn’t knew how to say the word “Read” hahaha! She got my point so no problem. I can sense how important was it for her to do more for her job so I quickly pointed my fingers to the menu uttering “Zhe ge” in each item.

It wasn’t that long before our orders came in I had beef toppings on rice while dad had pork. We had another dish that I can’t remember what it was called, but it was like a crunch noodle wrapped in thick sticky rice wrapper that you have to dip in a soy sauce like mixture. It was definitely yummy that dad even ate his entire slice!

After lunch we took our way off to go back to Tsim Sha Tsui. From the subway we walked who knows how far from the the subway station, all I know is that my feet are starting to hurt already. But we are up for more walking around for the rest of the day, I didn’t complain.

The Star Ferry Terminal is located on the northern end of the Cruise Center. Luckily we didn’t had to wait for a few more minutes as we caught the ferry that was about to leave. I choose to take the ferry going to Hong Kong island as it was an experience it self. The scenic view was exceptional as you depart from the busy suburb of Kowloon going to the upscale business district of Central.

Armed with a map we navigated the streets of Hong Kong island from the ferry terminal going to the Peak. The map seem to have mislead us in a way, it looked like it was just a short walk but I was wrong. The uphill terrain was  a challenge for me (I’m fat) and dad (old) but I don’t regret taking this route. It was a good walk. We were able to see the historic and famous buildings of Hong Kong, those who defined and meld what Hong Kong is now today.

 

There was a long line snaking around the building where The Tram going up The Peak can be found.  We almost lined up the wrong cue, good thing we asked around first. There were a lot of people, which actually caught me by surprise. According to my research the best time to get to the peak was in the after noon between 4:00 PM till about 6:00 PM as there would be no lines to cue it’s just you and the peak. It must have a been a fluke or I was just really jinxed. I mean that many of people, all unrelated to each other, saying the same thing can be wrong right? Anyways it took us over an hour before we could get to the board.

The trip going up was worth the wait! We were treated with a spectacular view of the island going up, I’d say that it is almost better than the view from the peak, almost.

At the end of the tram line we alight inside The Peak building it self. We worked our way up through a series of escalators. I wasn’t really sure if we were on the right way, so I asked the staff at Madame Tussaud’s and was directed to go further up. The stairs lead us to a door that opened to the Sky Terrace. I was kinda disappointed because it was small and crowded, but my determination didn’t falter. I was there to take a post card photo of  the down town area of Central Hong Kong.

 

As soon as I got my shot I called dad so I can get his photo taken with the sky line of Central at his back. It was a challenge keeping that spot, fortunately we got what we came there for. I don’t know if I look Chinese or something but there were several people who insistently tries to talk to me in Chinese, I’ll reply in English, then I’ll here them say “Shuo yingwen” which means to me that they got that I only speak English. Anyways we went back down and lo and behold! Another line to board the tram! We can’t use the Senior Citizen trump card because in Hong Kong you have to be 65 to be considered as a senior, so no express lanes or consideration for us. awwwww. We. Waited. In. Line.

Going back to Kowloon, we took the double decked bus going down to the  ferry terminal. It was a great ride going down to the star ferry terminal on top of the bus. With the wind blowing on your face and the buildings seem to be staring at you. It was a no brainer  decision to make, we took the star ferry going back to Kowloon. It was a different experience with with the lights on the buildings seem to dance in through the night.

As soon as we set foot on land on the Kowloon side, I asked dad if he wants to have dinner at the night market in Temple street, I wanted to but my feet are dead tired so I checked with dad first. He declined, without hesitation as I concurred. We just ate at a nearby restaurant from our hotel.

It was our last night. Though we missed some of the places in our itinerary I still felt like we had a great time in Hong Kong. We were able to maximize our budget while experiencing the fundamental things of what makes Hong Kong the Asia’s World City.

The bus ride back to the airport the following morning was reflective for me as I take my last look at the city where I had brought at least one of my family at. I said to my self that I will come back armed with a better budget and do the things we failed to do. I say Hong Kong is an experience that you will want to do over and over without regret as the city is as unique as it could get each and every night.

Off we go back to reality we call Manila.

Hong Kong: Dad’s First Time Abroad (Day 2)

Yesterday was tiring, so  after checking and tweaking our itinerary I closed my eyes and thank the Lord for letting us arrive safely. I also prayed that I wake up early. Luckily I did woke up early, but the weather was humid that day and the air conditioned room felt a bit more comfortable than outside so we hang out for bit inside our room.

Today’s breakfast was off-the-rack from the 7Eleven store across the street. I didn’t want to walk and look further for food because dad is with me. It was good though, a local noodle brand that we don’t have back here in Manila, and a loaf of bread. It was a good breakfast.

First on our list was an easy walk along the avenue of stars. It was just a couple of stations away from Mong Kok, we weren’t really in a hurry so we walked leisurely to the station. As we exit the subway we were greeted by an outdoor installation art exhibit in front of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. I felt happy that dad seem to loosen up a bit and is starting to enjoy the trip. He candidly posed in front of the outdoor sculptures representing Man, Earth and Sky.

The museum is seamlessly connected to the Avenue of Stars so we walked just right in. We were welcomed by a stunning view of Hong Kong Island the financial heart of the former British colony. I tell you it is not that hard to admire the view. Dad walked towards the railings, with his headphones on -probably pumping his Beatles playlist from his phone- looking across the beautiful horizon. I had to call his attention repeatedly for a picture this time because apparently his music was playing to loud, but that was actually great that just means he is enjoying the moment.

There were a few people taking photos with the beautiful sky line of the Hong Kong Island on their back so it was relatively easy to get a good shot. My plan was just to walk through the entire avenue, take photos of Jackie Chang, Chow Yun Fat of course with Bruce Lee’s statue, I was wrong. You can not breeze through the Avenue of Stars. The first part was actually okay with just a few people but going towards the end part of the Avenue is a different story. There is where you’ll find the crowd favorite and yes all three of those that I mentioned earlier. You have to elbow your way to get a good photo with Bruce Lee (I mean this, I almost literally elbowed someone) I even scolded someone who looks some kind of an official photographer of a group tour. He was asking me to leave the Bruce Lee’s fence after I snapped a photo from my phone, with an unpleasant voice I replied to the guy “We are not done yet, we are still taking our photos!”. I don’t know if he got intimidated with my width – kidding lol- but he did shut up until we left.

It was really hot and humid that day and dad was commenting about the weather “Hindi pala malamig dito” (I didn’t think that it’s not cold here), I replied that it does get a little bit colder here during winter but it is summer time so it is hot. It was a challenge to walk from one end to another that I have to go on a shade for some relief.

I can see Bruce Lee from where I was standing! I hurried up and tried to snug my self through the crowd, then waved at my dad telling him to push him self through. Success! We needed really good timing to get photos of other actors and dad was pretty fast is adapting =).

It took us about three hours to finish the whole stretch. Dad had to take breaks, I had to go hide under the shades believe me the heat was exhausting.

Walking back to the train station we decided to stay for about an hour in our room to rest. Rain started drizzling and slowly build its strength. Good thing we went back. But we were suppose to go to Ngong Ping 360 and I am secretly keeping Disneyland tickets, I had to make a decision if we were to go or not. The rain just got more intense before it subsided, it was a bit too late to push through with Ngong Ping 360 to see the giant Buddah.

I remembered that dad wanted to see the electronics shopping area so back to the subway and off we go to Sham Shui Po. We searched for the street that sells second hand items but it started drizzling again. I saw the Golden Computer Plaza across the street so we hurried crossing  and entered the building. I was overwhelmed with how much computer stuff was going on inside, I was saying a prayer inside my head saying I wish I have money to buy something from any of the shops.

We’ve gone several rounds around the plaza but the rain wasn’t stopping, it seem like it’s not going to happen anytime soon by the way the rain falls from the sky. But just like a miracle the rain halted as if some one closed the faucet from where all these water is coming from. I thought that the heavens was saying go on with your trip.

One of the things that is on my must do list on this trip, the one that I told my self that I have to see by hook or by crook is a visit to the happiest place on earth Disneyland. Dad doesn’t know yet where we are going so as we transfer from one line to another it became much more obvious to him so I candidly asked him if he knows he smiled and said “sa Disneyland ba?” (are we going to Disneyland?) taking his cue from the MTR signage. I smiled and said yes.

The Disney experience actually starts right after you transfer platforms and take the Disneyland. The train going from Sunny Bay station to the park are adorably decorated with Disney characters and matching Mickey Mouse windows reminding me of how I feel that the Beitou trains in Taipei are like.

Since I bought our tickets from the hotel we didn’t have to line up and cue a long line for tickets (and yeah we saved some HK$30) As soon as we got into the park we of course we took photos and took the oh so obligatory shot at the park entrance. Right after that we went straight to Space Mountain, my all time favorite ride in Disneyland Parks, to get fast pass so that we don’t have to line up that long; see Space Mountain probably is the most popular ride in all of Disneyland: Fast Pass time 8PM.

I’ve been to a Disneyland before (Anaheim) but that was a long time ago so this is kinda nostalgic for me to come back and see another Disneyland park, smaller but almost just the same since it has been patterned to the one in California.

We started with It’s A Small World, a very relaxing boat ride inside an enclosed somewhat expo type building that shows you the different cultures of the world while singing It’s A Small World in their own Language. Just for the heck of it we cued for the Tea Cups ride, while spinning on and on I figured out what ride next to take.

Disneyland was awesome and I can say that dad enjoyed it as well. Our favorite (not counting space shuttle for me) was the PhilharMagic show where you sit in a theater and watch or should I say experience the show in 4D. We got wet, smell great food and shaken right on our seats. I was actually kinda reluctant at first to see this but I guess this goes next after my all time favorite ride.

 

 

It was a good thing I was able to sneak in our water bottles because water and food is really expensive inside the park, come prepared -with money that is. There’s only one water fountain that I saw in the entire park which was in the food court at the back of Cinderella’s, we refilled our bottles evading the seemingly inevitable choice of buying small drinks with big price tags.

The parade was about to start, we rushed to the parade route and got a good spot. Just about when the music was about to cue it started drizzling and drizzling, harder and harder. I thought that it would escalate to a rain but the weather wasn’t that cruel, I guess that is why they call it Sunny Bay. It didn’t even rain there when it was like a storm was happening in Mong Kok. The parade ended but just like the Pied Piper people started following the parade, I was thinking what are they trying to do here? Anyways we have our agenda set so off we go to some more attractions.

After riding and seeing everything that we could, as darkness started to take over, we searched for a place to eat inside the park. There were several restaurants specially themed like ballrooms and space age but we opted to eat at a traditionally Chinese themed diner. The food was nothing special, well maybe I am saying this because of my culture’s affinity to the Chinese, but I still don’t think any one would be impressed with the food inside the park not to mentioned that it is over priced. we spent about HK$ 98 for a meal with drinks for each of us. Again I am not impressed, but what was I expecting it’s a park food – I should have expected over pricing.

I sneaked for a few minutes after dinner to smoke a stick and take photos of the park at night. Fifteen before eight that night I decided to go for Space Mountain. Though our fast pass says we can use it by eight the crew let us in and off we skipped the long line outside straight to the holding area for passengers waiting to board. I told dad that it’s just going to be just some fast roller coaster ride no drops or what so ever that he should be afraid of “Nasakyan ko na ‘to sa  Anaheim Pa, hindi naman nakakatakot” (I’ve rode this in Anaheim it’s not scary). I was so brave in the gondola as we go up and up, I know it’s just going to be fine. I was wrong. It started out as expected but going down the coaster’s rail there were several drops! I was like… what the F was that! We survived, dad was surprisingly cool about it hahaha… well what else could he have done? He’s my kidnap victim here remember? Hahahaha!

Space Shuttle done! It was the last ride on our list. But we aren’t done yet, there’s one more thing that I deem that is a must do in Disneyland, without it I cannot say that our experience is complete. Dad uttered “Uwi na tayo!” (Let’s go back to the hotel) I replied “Hindi pa tayo tapos!” (We are not done yet). I dragged him towards main street proudly saying I know just where to position, we have to watch the fire works! Sadly the spot to best view the show was filled up by a lot of co-spectators. We managed to get a decent spot, not the best though but it works.



The fireworks display, perhaps it may be in every Disneyland that there is, may be the most magical part of a Disneyland experience. It transports people through time when dancing in the rain was just possible without shame, when running on bare feet was just alright. It triggers the nostalgia in every persons heart, trying to remind us of how life use to be just so simple. Happy.

And it was over.

We didn’t try to swim across the hundreds of people trying to get out of the park, we leisurely walked and talked about the experience. Took photos along the way. We just didn’t want to end it. But our bodies are tired from all the activities  so we had to leave. Oh yeah the park was about to close. The inevitable.

At the hotel we just lay down our things and try to rest before sleeping. We were so tired that it was so hard to sleep feeling those aching muscles. While dad was resting I chanced upon my aunt who lives in the US, I thought that she would be excited to talk with dad on his first over seas trip. The internet was kinda cranky on their end so the video was cutting in and out. But the two sibling did just fine catching up with each other. The call got disconnected. We called it a day.

Hong Kong: Dad’s First Trip Abroad (Day 1)

I’d be honest. I do keep a list, more of a mental note that has gone long it became a list. One of them is to bring my family members abroad just like those that I look at to, as rich and well off do. I keep it in my head thinking that I will fulfill them one day.

I didn’t thought that I would tick off an item on the list after leaving a good paying  job. But I did. The target Hong Kong.

I’ve always planned on surprising my dad with a trip, being with the first one failed.  I went back to the drawing board and after a year there came another chance. A good seat sale is always a key for my trips,  I book then I plan my work around it. I had to keep my mouth shut and keep it to my self if I can, I don’t want to mess it up anymore.

Our trip is almost there my travel fund is two thirds of what it should be. I needed help. I told my sister about my plan, it’s less than three months before we leave. I asked my sister to give my dad some pocket money so that he could enjoy some shopping in Hong Kong. She obliged. But an unforeseen event happened I had to pay for something, so the shopping got scratched off the plans and the money went for the basic things we need.

One night I asked my dad “Gusto mo sumama sa Cebu?” (Do you want to join me in cebu?) He was like it’s up to you. So I took it as yes, of course he’d like to join me going there he enjoyed it the last time. I asked him this so that he could have an idea that we are going on a trip.

Then the day we have been waiting for today we are flying to Cebu, at least that is what my dad was thinking. We came into the airport, instinctively I immediately went looking for the travel tax counter as it was moved to a different part of the airport which was really inconvenient and irritating – looking for their booth and paying the government because you want to see other places. I realized that my dad doesn’t know my plans yet, I had to break the news to him already. I gave me the itinerary and told him that I’ll just be video taping that moment for my blog. I asked him to read the itinerary and asked him “Saan ka pupnta ngayon?” (where are you going today?) With his blurry vision he tried to read what was written, then his face lit up and uttered “Hong Kong!”. He had been talking about it for about a week long as one of his friends went there for vacation too so I understand how excited he felt that time, not because he was going out of the country the first time but he is about to experience the same of the stories he just used to hear.

After checking in we lined up for the immigration officer. She’s cute. hehehe… I remember her name and I found her in facebook =) <3. I lead the way with both of our passports with me so the officer can process us both the same time. Dad kept wondering off from the booth with his ear phone on, I poked him and told him to stay still as the officer was trying to check if the photo on the passport matches. The immigration saw me and with a cute smile told me that it was okay and asked if it was my dad’s first time. Oh… all Immigration officers should be as cute as you … hahaha what the heck am I saying here? hahahaha!

Hong Kong is a couple of hours away from Manila of course as usual we asked for a window seat. I gave him the seat. I’ve been out of the country for a few times already and this is his first so I obliged to give him my precious window seat. I could still see the view from where I was anyway so no biggie. The first sight of Hong Kong was several islands with tall buildings, I don’t know which part of Hong Kong it was but I know that we were on our final descent.

Same drill with the Hong Kong immigration, I went forward with him and our passports presented the same time. I briefed him to stay still and don’t use his phone. We went through without a hitch and as soon as we passed immigration I told him ” You are now officially in Hong Kong”, I explained that unless we get through immigration we were just at the gates somewhere in between our country and another. We picked up my tripod, the only thing that I checked in and then went straight at the arrival area for the train.

I got kinda confused with the airport because I oriented my self with Hong Kong International Airport’s (HKIA) terminal 1 as it was the terminal indicated on our itinerary. Then I realized that the bus that shuttled us from the concourse took us to terminal 2 that was why instead of the long walk that I was expecting it only took a short one going to the Airport Express train not to mention that the ceiling of the terminal was kinda low compared to the main terminal.

The arrival area is conveniently linked to the Airport Express. There were no turnstiles or barriers so you just get on the train. A one way train ride from the airport if you take the Airport Express straight to Kowloon or Hong Kong station costing you $100 HKD. We chosed to cut our trip short on the Airport Express, we hopped off at Tsing Yi Station and took the commuter line onwards, the fare? $60 HKD!

Our hostel was in Mong kok probably the busiest part of the city. There were better prices at the Chung King mansions that backpackers would really go for, but this is my dad’s first time abroad I wanted it to be as comfortable as I could afford. The room was just about 9 sqm, just enough for two double beds and a small table amazingly they were able to manage a tiny toilet and shower combo in that small space. I am not complaining at all, it was just enough for what we need. Oh the best part is that we got a room with windows.

We were starving already as it was past 9 pm already and we’ve only eaten lunch. We told the hostel owner, Stanley, that we’d just drop by his office later that night and get the WiFI password after eating. The elevator was quite small and you can only use one of the two on each lobby. One elevator was assigned for floors with even numbers and the other for odd numbers.

We walked for a bit around the block but we were so hungry we ate at the first restaurant that we saw. I read on a lot of blogs that it wont really help you even if you know how to speak Mandarin because people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese. But I think otherwise, I don’t really speak Mandarin fluently but I was able to ask the lady if they have rice aside from the noodles pictured on their menus in Mandarin and they understood. Actually all of the stores that I spoke with in Mandarin understood me.

Dad had beef noodles and I ate rice topped with braised beef with some steamed vegetables. The food was okay, nothing special. We spent $103 HKD for our meals it was kinda expensive but I prepared at least $100 HKD for our meals, so that was expected.

After eating we went back to our hotel, dad went ahead and slept and I planned for our next day. It’s been a good day for us and I hoped that it’s gonna be great the next day too.

Seoul: The Namdaemun

The wind was trying to freeze my will to continue with my journey that day. I can barely feel my hands as I try to shove them inside my pocket alternately as I try to smoke a stick  to warm my self pathetically. I can see my goal I am almost there, my heart was beating faster as I approach until its glorious self has unveiled before me, the Namdaemun. I wandered off the Namdaemun market and tried some of the local food available. I found Mandus, Onion Spring Cakes and my favorite of all the Hotteok, possibly the Korean version of our own Piaya only that it is fried and its filling is oozing as you take a bite out of it and oh good thing that I was there on  a fall since they only sell it during this season.

Eating too many of small pieces of food can be a little too much specially if you want to try all of what you see but I was craving for more. On I go to look for a good heavy meal to fill up my tummy and give some warmth. There were a lot of food stalls around the market area but I was looking for something that is not too commercial, something closer to the Korean home.

I saw one stall that looks like one of those that you’d see on a KDrama, a food stand in a tent with thick transparent plastic as walls to trap the heat on a cold weather. There was a sign posted with tape  reading, Sujebi + Kimbap for just KW 4,000. It was a bargain and just what I needed.

Funny but I was nervous as I step inside the tent, I was greeted by an enthusiastic cook busily making Kimbaps with her plastic gloved hands. She spoke to me in Korean but her gestures are enough for me to understand that she wants me to sit down on a table to be served. The tent was small that could fit just about four on a rather not that comfortable arrangement but it works. The tent was heated by a fan fitted with a heater and yes it was comfortably warm inside. I sat across a man eating the only food that she serves, he sips, no more like sucks the soup from the bowl like a vacum hungry for warmth.

I can’t remember how I managed to order but I guess it was kinda easy coz I can’t order the wrong food since it was the only thing that she was selling (duh!!!! hahahaha) but what I know is that I was able to have a bowl of Sujebi and a some Kimbap land in front of me.

Warm and tummy filled, I decided to continue with my journey. I walked back to the main road and navigated with my handy map to my destination. I walked passed through rows of camera stores that distracted me much as I stared at the cameras that seem to be begging to be taken home. But I have none, no money to shop that grand for a new camera.

Selfie…. Failed! hahaha

I can see the Namdaemun from where I was at, one of the important gates of ancient Seoul is right before me. For a moment there as I look up on all of its glory, it seemed that I forgot that it was cold, at least for a moment. I rarely make itineraries because they just disappoint me when I don’t fulfill them. I am glad that I was able to strike this off my list.

For some this is just going to be another structure but for history-heritage-hungry people like me, this is a must visit, or maybe at least one of the major gates of Seoul. This is where the journey to this kingdom used to start.

A Bit Of History

Seoul in the past was a fortified kingdom called Hanyang. The Namdaemun is the southern gate and is one of the eight gates from which you can only enter the kingdom of Hanyang.

In 2008 a man burned the Namdaemun, the structure of which was already 550 years old at that time. Reports say that the man targeted the Namdaemun because it was easily accessible for his protest against some land developers who had not paid him still.

The Namdaemun which is also known as the Sungnyemun is Korea’s #1 National Treasure. (more of Korea’s National Treasure list here)

How To Get To The Namdaemun

Take the subway, get off either of the two stations Seoul or HoeHyeon. From the Seoul Station you need to walk two to three block north of the station and that is it. But if you want to pass through the Namdaemun market get off at Hoehyeon station and walk towards the west. You will easily find the market as it is efficiently labeled/marked. There’s also a small tourist information booth in the middle of the market where you can ask for more help.

The Jimjjilbang Experience

This is not the first time that I have been to a spa , but yes it is still my first time doing it Korean style. I have always wondered how different does it feel like from a Japanese Style Onsen that I went to when I was in Taiwan, well aside from the fact that you can lazy all you want the whole day I was really interested on how Koreans bath differently from the former.

I was suppose to go to the Jimjjilbang the night before as my plans for that day falter because of rain that as per weather forecasts were soon to turn into snow ugh! Then again I fell asleep so I went in the next morning. Seoul’s weather at that time was kinda crazy it was all cloudy but with little rain and strong winds that would just make you hands feel numb if you don’t have the proper gear for the weather.

Bong the hostel owner recommended to me the jimjjilbang near Dongdaemun rather than the one near our hostel because it wasn’t that good. So I took a train ride and hopped off the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park station and searched for the Good Morning City bldg. Most of the bldg, which is a shopping mall as well, is closed but you can go in and take the elevator going down to the 24 hour jimjjilbang on its basement, SPAREX.


Stepping inside the jimjillbang was like heaven for a late fall weather, it was warm and comfy, you don’t have to hug your self and put your hands inside your pockets alternately just to keep warm. I paid  ₩ 8,000 at the front desk, in return they gave me a locker key where I can put my things and my Jimjjilbang outfit for the day.

Before going to the main lockers where you can leave your stuff you have to take off your shoes and leave them in one of the shoe lockers, sooo Asian right? Well I like it! hahaha! The main locker area is where you’ll have access to the hot pools, so I undressed and went straight to the hot baths in the pool area.

The Jimjillbang is quite different from a Japanese onsen because of so many things, here are some that I noticed.

  • Jimjjilbangs have sleeping areas where you could just lay on the floor all day.
  • They have different pools that are infused with herbal concoctions and temperatures vary from one pool to another
  • They have these chambers where you could just hangout and sweat or even shiver!
  • Onsens usually comes from natural springs, Jimjjilbangs don’t need those.
  • There are a lot more activities that you can do in a Jimjjilbang like watch kdramas and get a massage. They have a whole bunch of activity areas that you can try I even saw someone having his haircut naked in the lockers area! Quirky? Not really -at least for me.

 

I spent a lot of time in the pool area trying to gather and enjoy the much needed warmth of the water then I went to just lay around the area that I call lazy area hahaha… well that is what you do there you just do your best to be lazy! hahaha….

After a couple of hours of sleep I woke up with a grumbling tummy so I head out to the spa’s restaurant. They have quite affordable meals that you could feast on, but I don’t know if it was just the food that they served or the food was just kinda bland for my taste. Nevertheless I enjoyed their ice cream which was really good!

Anyways I went back to the my favorite area, the lazy area -thank you lol- and lay around for about an hour more I actually don’t want to get up anymore and just sleep all day but this wasn’t all that I was here for. I got up and went back to the pools, took a dip and readied my self for my next adventure.

The Jimjillbang surely is one thing that you should not miss when in Korea, its part of the culture and it’s an experience of its own. It is liberating and gives you some sense of peace and open mindedness like you feel as if you are ready for he World! Just make sure that you have enough will power to get your ass off that “lazy area” so that you won’t spend your entire day in the spa -not that it’s bad-hahaha!

Do you have similar experiences or you have a version of this kind of public bath in your own country? let us know at the comments section! =)

How To Get To This Jimjjilbang (Sparex)

Hop on a train get off at the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park station (This is not the same as the Dongdaemun station) and look for the Good Morning City building (see pictures below)

Want more? See more of my South Korea Adventure Here

Quezon: Malagonlong Bridge

As they say if only the walls could talk but in this case if only a bridge could talk.For over a century now the Punte de Malagonlong has witnessed time from the era of Spanish Discovery to the modern cultural revolution brought by the Americans.

Thanks to the efforts of the local government of Tayabas, the bridge was saved from utter destruction from the unthinkable decision of the Department of Public  Works and Highways to destroy the bridge and replace it with a new one! Together with the people of Tayabas a piece of our history was saved.

 As part of our Laguna-Quezon Heritage Tour, our guide made sure that we would pass by the historic bridge. However, the supposed rolling tour turned into a good half hour exploration of the bridge and its surroundings.

We ventured down below the bridge where a lot of locals enjoy the wonderful water and scenery, it was a bit dirty though a clean up and some grooming of the bushes and some cottages and some good bricks and grass…. hahaha I could just go on and on but what I am saying is that the site is a good place to develop for a like a park! Ahem DOT/Local DOT?? = )

 After exploring the river below the bridge, I walked right back up at street level and walked right crossing the bridge. It was like walking on a period movie set only this time it is so dang real!

The bridge is made up of adobe blocks built on an arc type manner with each and every block supporting one another. The walk way is made up of dirt with no cobble stones paving the way. I like the feeling that it was as if you didn’t left the ground and on to the bridge, it was like the earth was just extended hanging over the water, floating like magic.

I had to walk my way back now to our bus it was nice the people that I am with on tour are somewhat kind of pasaway! hahaha… it was suppose to be just a nice-to-see-you-bridge but with took like more than thirty minutes to explore the bridge! hahaha! That was fun and nostalgic I’m sure if the local government could turn this to a good spot every one would enjoy it!

Where to Find Malagonlong Bridge

The Malagonlong bridge is found in Tayabas City,  I really don’t know how to get there because we were all on a tour bus. But here’s a map of the bridge’s location.


 Special thanks to Out Of Town Blog, Filipino Heritage Festival and Kulinarya Tagala

Seoul: Changdeokgung

The Changdeokgung or Changdeok Palace was the second palace that I visited. The palace complex is within the same area and is separated from the Changgyeonggung  by just a wall, you can even get into the Changdekgung from the first palace.

The Changdeokgung is a bigger and grander palace compared to the one first one that I’ve been to not only in size but also in the importance. On this palace we learned about how the king assembles his court in front of the throne room, but lets not jump places here lets start from the beginning shall we?

From the Changgyeonggung  I bought a ticket from the back entrance of the the Changdeokgung which is inside the first palace.  The ticket costs KW 3,000 for adults with discounts for students and seniors. Honestly I had to think about it twice because it cost more compared to the first one where I paid KW 1,000. Good thing that I came to my senses that 3 thousand won was just around Php 130 pesos and I thought that it is worth the paying for.

I learned at the tour of the palace was to start much later so I hang out at the coffee shop and enjoyed the scenery, but I tell you don’t expect too much about the coffee at the cafe.

The tour started and yep I was first in line, well actually there wasn’t any line at all. People from all over the area were summoned by our tour guide’s really sweet voice announcing that the English tour is about to start.

Just like the first tour on the other palace, the tour took us around the palace grounds showing us important  buildings such as the library, the physician’s  office and the king’s office. Well it was all well and good I just hoped that they included bits of Korea’s history like sighting an important event in the kingdom life.

I’m going to be honest, it was like hearing the same story that I’ve heard from the previous tour group that was with at the first palace that I’ve visited so like I said before just take the tour at the grand palace.

We started at the main entrance of the complex where the map and a brief history of the palace can be found. Our guide, Grace, actually has a much better command of English than our guide in the first palace. She also tries connect a lot more with her her audience even if it means giving out corny jokes hahahaha…. well we all laughed at them anyway… hahahaha….

Grace then took us to the centuries old bridge where the Kings and Queens of soul used to cross as there’s a small stream that runs across the palace’s entrance. I must say that the people and government of Hanyan (the old name of Seoul) should really be commended as the engineering and the planning really thought ahead of their time, imagine the stream that was actually redirected and the bed was laid down with granite so water will easily just flow through!

The first part of the tour was the government offices Grace took us to each and every building while she gives a short narrative of the importance of the building to the dynasty, this includes the library the king and queens quarters and the royal kitchen among others.

We entered and exited through the small doors leading to another part of the palace, I felt like going through a maze that I could just get lost in. Grace told us that it is possible that the reason why they made doors that small that you’d have to bow down to enter is to remind government officials to always be humble…… hmmm… I think we should make doors smaller here in our country… don’t we?

After touring the the government and official’s offices Grace then lead us to the main assembly ground where the throne room is found.

I really don’t remember what hall is this for so if you can read Chinese leave a comment below on what is this for…. oh yeah see that man yawning there? I waited for him to leave that spot but he didn’t I went back here after the tour and he was still there!!! ugh!

This is the blue office or building or something to that effect which served as the office of the king.

This here maybe the most remarkable of them all. This is this the house that was built for the king’s most beloved concubine it was so special that they made it real big. The building is unfinished hence the the uncolored walls.

I went back to the much more recent wing of the complex that was actually used by the last king and this is where they received guests like diplomats and royalties.

 The tour was nice because of the tour guide and yeah it could be a lot of fun to visit these palaces if you are a fan of Korean dramas or if you are with friends, but if you are like me who really does enjoy just being alone and quite this would be a good one for you as well.

Quezon: Ugu Bigyan’s Potter’s Garden A Must Visit

On my recent meet-Quezon-province trip I got experience someof the things that there is to see and do in the southern tagalog area and the best thing about it was that it all culminated into one sumptuous lunch buffet at Ugu Bigyan’s Potter’s Garden.

Ugu Bigyan’s Potter’s Garden is located  in Tayabas Quezon the first town after Laguna. Upon arriving at Ugu’s place we were greeted by a beautiful brick house with its remarkable symmetry comparable to the awesome finds in property portals, like Lamudi Philippines for example.

Ugu’s property is quite impressive I must say the dining area where guests who come here are embraced with an upscale Filipino atmosphere, with pavilions that remind you of Nipa huts from the olden days that provide real refreshing surroundings.

 

 

Aside from an unforgettable dinning experience one should also take note and appreciate the landscape and architecture of the place as it really would make you feel relax. You can roam around the property and marvel at the various pottery craft that the master potter, Ugu Bigyan himself made, and maybe you can also buy some that you like at their pottery store.

 

ceramic charms

Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Store

Made-to-order products

You can also catch Ugu make pots from time to time if you are lucky! It was really amazing how he crafts the lifeless clay into wonderful dining wares.

 Ugu creating a simple bowl

There are a lot of things to discover about pottery at Ugu Bigyan’s place and it’s not just the craft and the architecture the food is a revelation it self. So don’t forget to make that reservations if you plan to visit Quezon anytime soon!
Address:490 Alvarez Village. Brgy Lusacan, 4325 Tiaong, Quezon
Phone: 042-545-9144, 0917-560-5708, 0917-560-7973, 042-545-8689
Email: ugubigyan@yahoo.com
Fb: www.facebook.com/ugubigyan

This post was made possible by:

Out of Town Blog
Kulinarya Tagala
Filipino Heritage Fiesta

 

 

 

Guest Post: What to pack on a backpacking trip

On a backpacking trip, there’s only so much you can stuff into that one backpack. So it’s absolutely necessary that you carry along only the most essential items.

Depending on the climate of the region you’ll be backpacking in, pack the most appropriate type of clothing. So if you’re going to be backpacking in Eastern Europe make sure you have lots of warm clothing. However, if you’re going to be backpacking in Mexico, then do not waste precious space in your backpack with warm clothing that you are probably not even going to use much. Perhaps just one sweater with a hoodie would be fine for a chilly night in a generally warm region.


Also, since you’d be doing lots of walking in the sun on a backpacking trip, it’s important to have a good sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen is not just for girls. It’s for anyone who does not want to get their skin completely burnt. Good footwear is a must. One pair of walking/running shoes and one pair of flip-flops should suffice. Finally make sure that your backpack is a high-quality durable one that can survive the various elements of weather. Armed with all of the above, conquer that backpacking trip!

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