Sorsogon Weekend

Last month, Chelli and I made the spontaneous decision to go down to Sorsogon and be guinea pigs/beta testers for Just Wandering Tours. In hindsight, we should have thought the trip through better because with over 12-hours spent on the bus per way, it only left us less with than 2 whole days in the area.

I’ve always believed in DIY travel, so it was a new experience to completely hand the reins over. Nina met us at the Sorsogon bus station with coffee and breakfast so we could stretch out before hitting the road for another hour to Bulusan.

 

Home for the Weekend

We spent the day at Bulusan lake, where it started pouring (because of course it did. My Ame Onna powers know no bounds). We managed to make the hike around the lake during a lull in the deluge, but it did start coming down again while I was in the middle of the lake on a paddleboard lol.

 

There was a stream behind the hut we stayed in that lulled us to sleep before 10pm  — a damn miracle, I tell you, considering our little band of night owls. (Or should that be our little parliament of night owls?) We checked out the stream first thing in the morning, and I have not seen a body of water so close to where people live that was so clean in years. I wish I had photos of it to share, but there was a man bathing in it while we were taking our morning stroll haha!

After breakfast, we made our way to Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp in Gubat. I was so grateful for the clear skies and glassy, mushy waves that made for a chill surf day. While it was the part of our trip that I was most looking forward to, it was also the part that made me most anxious. Not only was it my first time surfing outside Zambales, I also didn’t have the safety blanket of my usual surf buddies. But the Lola Sayong locals were really friendly and put me at ease almost immediately.

 

It was such a perfect way to end our weekend. Nina spoiled us the entire time — she had us chauffeured around Sorsogon, fed us incredibly well, and basically made our stay stress-free. I only regret that we didn’t plan our time away from the city better and stay longer. But there’s always next time, eh?

If you ever want to go around Bulusan with a local in comfort, go check out Just Wandering Tours!
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Singapore 2015

This is only my second time in Singapore. The last time I was there, was for work. And I spent most of the week either manning my former company’s booth at a trade show or at the office. It was nice to be in the city as a tourist and to do touristy things this time around.

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The pretty Mexican cantina along Haji Lane. ❤

Our first day was a frantic day of shopping, since we had nothing planned. I wanted to buy all the IKEA and Art Friend (a ridiculously comprehensive art supply store in Bras Basah). Managed to control myself for the most part, only really buying things I need that I can’t get back home, although I did kind of lose my shit at Sephora.

Just a little. Damn you, Urban Decay.

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Day two was for Universal Studios!

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I didn’t really expect to enjoy it as much as I did because I’m such a wuss when it comes to rides, but we had so much fun! You could not pay me enough to ride either of the Battlestar Galactica coasters but I did ride (and love!) Revenge of the Mummy! The only ride that I enjoyed just as much was the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. I still can’t quite decide which I loved more.

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Fake Egypt was definitely my favourite section of the park, though. No competition there.

The weekend was dedicated solely to Singapore Toy, Game, & Comic Con, which I’ll make a separate post for.

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We took our last day kind of slow. Getting up late, checking out the pretty murals at Haji Lane, and making one last mall run before heading to the airport. Also getting one last order of curry rice from my favourite food stall at the Bugis Junction food court.

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Mmmm. Two meat dishes, one veg, fried rice, drowning in curry sauce for around 6SGD.. Mmmm-mmmm.
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Best paired with Cla’s discovery of waterchestnut juice.

Honestly, the longer I stayed in Singapore, the angrier and sadder it made me about Manila. Despite the haze (and the haze got pretty bad when we were there) the air still felt cleaner. And commuting! I haven’t had a pleasant commute in close to a decade. When was the last time you got to sit down on a train in Manila? When was the last time you exited a train not smelling of someone else’s sweat? Or actually get on or exit a train platform without having to fight through an ocean of other commuters? Drivers let you cross first when they see you, and I’ve never felt this safe walking around at 3am with my phone out.

Oh, Philippines. This could have been us.

IMG_1516Anyway, here’s a Wong Kar Wai-ish shot of us waiting of our train home after a long day at the convention + Kinokuniya. 😛

Up next: all my flailing at STGCC.

You Say Good-bye, I say Hanoi

I was on the fence when my mother asked me to be her travel buddy to Hanoi. I really didn’t know that much about Vietnam, so I thought it would happen sometime maybe in the next year or two. Then my travel plans for mid-2014 fell through (that’s twice now that my plans to visit a certain country’s failed, I’m beginning to think I’m jinxed) and I just refused to let the year end without a trip.

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Buildings in the Old Quarter

I loved that you can walk almost everywhere in Hanoi. Since we were staying at the Old Quarter, most of the places to see and shop at were within a maximum of 30 mins of walking away. I already worry about skeevy cab drivers at home, even more so when I’m abroad, so anytime I can walk to my destination, I’m happy. The only time we took a cab to was the area where the Fine Arts Museum and the complex that housed the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Mausoleum, former house, and Presidential Palace was.

And the buildings are so pretty. Most of them are only a room wide, but extend backwards. The streets remind me of bookshelves.

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The Opera House in the French Quarter.

This trip made me realise that I take terrible photos of cityscapes so I spent the better part of my first afternoon back in Manila being a human Instagram-like filter machine. Hahaha!

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Epic meal time.

My favourite meal in Hanoi and I have no idea what it’s called. Despite arguing over almost everything during this trip, Mama and I agreed on two things: No tour guides, and if the restaurant’s full of tourists, don’t eat there. This bilao of food was from an eatery hidden in a small alley across our hotel. No menus and nobody spoke English. Mama was actually trying to order something else from her list of food-to-try-in-Vietnam, but the waitress just looked at us like we were crazy and brought this out. SO GOOD THO’. The consistency of fishcake, but made of pork. Plus the usual basil and rice noodle cake things.

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Obligatory photo of my face. At the Temple of Literature.

I’d like to come back and see the rest of Vietnam soon. Prolly check out Halong Bay, because weird flight schedules only gave us 3 days in Hanoi instead of the planned 4-5, we didn’t have enough time to. I already miss the food, and our lovely hotel. Which I totally recommend, btw. If you’re planning a trip to Hanoi, check out the Hanoi Old Centre Hotel. The place is pristine, they’ve got  free refreshments in the lobby all day and the staff’s really friendly. 10/10 would stay again. 😛

These are some of my favourite photos, the rest are on Facebook, if you’re interested. For now I’m making our stockpile of instant pho last as long as possible.

Siem Reap 2013 – Temples: Days 3 & 4

At Beng Mealea. Photo by Andy Lopez
At Beng Mealea. Photo by Andy Lopez

Our last two days in Seam Reap were spent visiting temples that are a ways away. With an hour at the least on the road, I can say my biggest accomplishment in Cambodia was mastering the art of napping on a moving tuktuk on a bumpy dirt road. On to the photos! As always, click to enlarge.

Banteay Srei

I love this temple. It took us about an hour to get to, but still surprisingly covered by the Angkor Temple Complex Pass. Relatively small, and some areas were roped off, but the carvings were so intricate and beautiful.

Banteay Samre

Near Banteay Srei and also still covered by the Angkor pass. Grander than Srei, but not as beautiful.

Banteay Kdei

Kdei was on the way home. It’s one of those temples that’s usually on the Grand Circuit tour. It felt like a mini-Bayon because of the giant faces on the gate and the carvings inside.

More photos from Day 3 here.

Beng Mealea

We woke up at 5am because Beng Mealea is a whopping two and a half hours away. Unlike most of the temples we visited previously, this was ruins and wasn’t being used for worship. Not covered by the Angkor pass, so there’s an additional 5 USD entrance fee per person.

More photos from Day 4 here.

<< PREVIOUS:  Temples: Days 1 & 2

Siem Reap 2013 – Temples: Days 1 & 2

My temple passes to the Angkor Wat temple complex and to Beng Mealea.
My temple passes to the Angkor Wat temple complex and to Beng Mealea.

Of course when one goes to Seam Reap, one must visit the temples, and we visited a total of thirteen during our stay. I am so, so thankful that I’ve upgraded to a (better) point and shoot that has optical zoom. There were just so many details that I wouldn’t have been able to capture because digital zoom sucks sweaty balls. (I love my Lumix LX5! ♥) I also realised on this trip, that I am more scared of heights than I know. I could feel my knees a-wobblin’ every time I had to climb. And these temple steps are fucking scary! Ancient Khmers must’ve had tiny feet haha! This was going to be just one post, but there are just too many temples!  Here are some of my favourite photos from the ones we visited on days one and two. Click on the thumbnails to embiggen.

Angkor Wat

In hindsight, it would have been better to visit Angkor Wat later in the trip. Some of the other temples were a little underwhelming compared to how grand it was. Pity most of it was being restored so I don’t have a proper photo of its facade.

Prasat Kravan

This originally wasn’t on our itinerary, but our tuktuk driver suggested it. It’s just a small temple, partly under restoration as well, but made of this gorgeous red-orange brick.

Pre Rup

I think our tuktuk driver wanted to save Ta Prohm for last because he brought us here first instead. I’d originally planned to see the sunset at Pre Rup, but it was all good. It did rain though, so I wasn’t able to take as many photos as I’d like.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is most known for being the temple they shot Tomb Raider at (which probably accounts for the insane number of tourists there), but regardless of the Angelina Jolie connection (and you know I love me some Angelina Jolie), it’s my favourite temple in the complex. I love how over grown with trees it is.

The rest of Day 1 photos here.

Bayon

Another favourite because of the breathtaking, massive stone faces on each tower.

Phimeanakas

The whole time we were exploring, I was wondering what the big deal was about it, because aside from its facade, it wasn’t particularly exciting inside. But then we got to the back of the temple and saw the reclining Buddha face.

Terrace of the Elephants & Terrace of the Leper King

I was running out of battery and didn’t get to take a lot. Gorgeous sculptures though.

The rest of Day 2 photos here.

<< PREVIOUS:  The Basics NEXT: Temples – Days 3 & 4! >>

Seam Reap 2013 – The Basics

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Scratched one more off the bucket list! The family and I took a little holiday last week and really, four days in Seam Reap isn’t enough. I now understand why my friends keep coming back.

I never got around to really blog about my Nepal trip two years ago, and I’m determined to it properly this time. Travel blogs pretty much saved me a lot of heartache when I was planning our itenirary and budget so hopefully, I can pass on the good vibes and help someone else. 🙂

Money:

There’s no need to change your bills to Riel; almost everyone accepts US Dollars but you get your change in Riel if it’s less than 1 USD. It’s about 4000 Riel to 1 USD.

PRO TIP: Bring new Dollars!
One of our bills were printed in the late 90’s, and no one would take it. I had to go to the bank to have it changed to a newer bill.

Accommodations:

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Home for 4 Days

Continue reading “Seam Reap 2013 – The Basics”

L’Arc~en~Ciel and Hongkong 2012!

So it’s been almost a month since the concert and I am still not over it.

Truthfully, I hadn’t touched a Laruku record in years. The last album I listened to was SMILE, which came out in 2004. (Of course, I’m totally up to date now haha) But when my friends started talking about going to Hongkong for the concert last year, I figured why the hell not. If I was going out of the country to watch a band play, it might as well be a band I started listening to in the 7th grade.

Good morning, Hongkong!

To save on monies, Noelle‘s lovely parents let me stay with them. It’s a good 30-minute bus ride and 3 train transfers away from the hotel the girls were staying at in Mongkok, but it’s near the airport and near AsiaWorld Expo which is awesome. And Gold Coast is pretty sweet. Look at that view.

I spent my first night there having dinner and drinks with my step-cousin Michael (that’s really the easiest way I can think of to describe our relationship) and his wife Clara, watching a Filipino band play at a bar that was manned by Filipina waitresses. Haha!

Then shopping at Mongkok and doing tourist-y things at Avenue of the Stars with Hazel and Cheena the next day.

Photo from Hazel.

Then met up with Rotch, Rael and Jill, whose flight arrived early that evening for Ajisen Ramen dinner.

We had originally planned on being at AsiaWorld Expo bright and early on concert day for tour goods, but we ended up getting there at around 1:30PM. And the queue that greeted us was insane.

Here’s a photo of us in line from the Official L’arc~en~Ciel Facebook page. (Yeah, I know. I’m giddy like that) The merch booth is inside lol.

If you squint, you can see me in my green Doc Martens Hahaha!  I spent what was supposed to be my Disneyland money on tour goods. I REGRET NOTHING.

The tour goods booth. Photo from Jill.

Post-tour goods queue. During the 6-hour wait til the start of the concert:

We’re so kyot.

Cameras, video and otherwise, were of course not allowed in the arena. I stole a couple of shots with my camera phone but it just takes sucky low-light photos and ran out of battery lol.

Photo from Jill. This was during their second song, “Chase.”

Again, I hadn’t listened to them in years, but when they finally got on stage and played the first note of Ibara no Namida, I was in tears hahaha! I also thought I’d outgrown my little crush on Hyde, but everytime he winked or tried to be cute at the camera, I melted a little inside HAHAHAHAHA.

Haido-mai-hasbaando. ❤ Photo from Hazel.

I was a little concerned that they’d just play their new songs and that I wouldn’t be able to relate, but their set list was a good mix of their old and new singles. I was pleasantly suprised to hear them play Ibara no Namida. It’s one of my favourite Laruku songs, but I didn’t realise it was that popular.

SET LIST:
1. Ibara no Namida 
2. Chase 
3. Good Luck My Way 
4. Honey
5. Drink it Down 
6. Revelation 
7. Hitomi no Jyuunin 
8. XXX
9. Forbidden lover 
10. My Heart Draws a Dream 
11. Seventh heaven
12. Driver’s high 
13. Stay away 
14. Ready Steady Go
ENCORE
Anata | Winter fall | 4th Avenue Cafe
Link | Niji

I spent my last day in Hongkong taking it easy. Woke up late, Noelle’s parents treated me to the best Salmon sashimi ever, took a nice long nap before going to the airport.

I miss Hongkong already. I regret not having the money to watch X-Japan in Bangkok late last year. My feet are itching again. Next target: Japan 2014!

A Nepal Homecoming

Back in Manila for four days and I already feel so very homesick for Nepal. This has been a trip seventeen years in the making and now that it’s over, I feel like I’ve left a huge part of me there. I always thought that this trip would get rid of its tug at my heart, but if anything, it’s actually made it stronger. I look forward to getting the chance to visit again.

Kathmandu has certainly seen better days. There’s electricity only fourteen hours a day, running water once a week plus a petrol shortage to boot. Although, it’s a lot cleaner than I remember. It felt odd to be there as a tourist (and to be charged tourist prices!) but better there as a tourist than not there at all. 🙂

There’s so much I want to say, but I don’t think I’m coherent enough at the moment to say it, so I will instead leave you with some of my favourite shots from the trip. Brightness and contrast slightly tweaked in photoshop because I only brought a point-and-shoot camera. My biggest regret was not bringing my film SLR.

The rest of the photos can be viewed on facebook:

Bangkok

People kept asking me if it was my first time in Thailand. I didn’t know how to respond.

No, it’s not my first time in Thailand. Since there were no direct flights to Kathmandu from Manila, we used to take the last flight in to Bangkok, spend the night then take the first flight out to Kathmandu. So no, it’s not my first time. I’ve actually been here more than 5 times.

BUT we’ve never stayed for more than 12 hours and always at the hotel connected to the airport, so I’ve never really seen Bangkok. So yes, it’s kind of my first time here.

Since this is a business trip, and I spent most of my waking hours at the office on the outskirts of Bangkok and didn’t really do a lot of sightseeing, I will be talking about food. Because if there’s one thing I can say about my Thai colleagues, they fed me well.

I thought I had a pretty high tolerance for spicy things. Chili and cumin is a staple in most Nepalese cooking, so I thought Thai food and I would get along great. Turns out, I’m not hardcore enough for Thai cuisine. Most notable would be the what-I-assumed-to-be a pepper-crusted steak that turned out to be chili-crusted. My tongue was numb the whole evening.

Which brings me to what is now my favourite Thai dish of all time: Green papaya salad.

I am not a big fan of papaya. Papaya to me actually tastes a bit like vomit. (sorry) I had seen this prepared on food channels and I thought it might taste a little like atchara which is also made of shredded green papaya. Turns out, there is a huge difference between pickled and fresh and this is absolutely awesome.

It’s got chicharon!

On my way to the airport, I saw the monks making their morning rounds and it hit me that I actually would miss Bangkok. Maybe someday I can come back, on holiday and not for work, and visit temples and do other tourist-y things.

Back from Singapore, lah!

sporeThe company I work for was having a trade booth at a conference in Singapore, and since I’m both a company and industry no0b, they decided to send me there for a couple of days. Anticipating the work, the conference, the meetings, and my terrible, terrible sense of direction I didn’t expect to be sight-seeing or doing anything remotely tourist-y during my stay — my lack of camera proves that. (The picture above was taken by my Singaporean colleague while we were having dinner at the fountain area in Suntec.)

Turns out, I was pretty spoiled by my Singaporean hosts and I now regret not bringing a camera. A lot of firsts on this trip. First time in Singapore, first time traveling alone, first “business trip”, first time out of the country in more than 10 fucking years and I have missed traveling terribly.

So, two things there that wasn’t related to work:

  • Food:

What I love about food in Singapore is the variety that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can take your pick from Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian food stalls for about 3-4 SGD. My favourite was the heaping plate of briyani rice, mutton curry and a little curried eggplant on the side for about 2.50 SGD at a food stall in Little India. Stalls at the mall food courts run up to about 5-7 SGD.

I went a little crazy with the Indian food there just because it’s so expensive in Manila. Plus it’s actually spicy and they don’t skimp on the cardamom. Mmm-mmm, cardamom.

I gained about 3 lbs in the 5 days I was there. Good food can be so evil.

After work one evening, a colleague took me out for drinks and dinner at a bar in Chjimes, which apparently used to be an old nunnery. They’ve kept a lot of the old buildings intact as well as the gothic churches and all I could think about was how awesome would it be to do a shoot there haha.

  • Shopping:

I stayed away from the malls, because I wasn’t too keen on impulse spending half a month’s salary, but I did go to Bugis St. where there’s  just a whole area of little shops. They have a whole bunch of 1,2 & 5 SGD things for sale, as well as a lot of 3 for 10 SGD things which is great when you’re buying a whole bunch of souvenirs for people back home.

I could go on, but let’s not. All in all, it was an awesome trip. It would be great to come back with friends and not have to work, but then I’d have to pay for my own ticket and accomedations hahaha. 😛