"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."
-Unknown

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Travel Review 2019




2019.

It was a weird year for me, overall.

Weird because there were many surprising things that happened but were nonetheless pleasant; some twists and turns in 2019 served me right for my career growth.

But sticking to the niche of this blog, I’m surprised that 2019 has actually been a jam-packed year of traveling for me. It’s just that some of my travel stories didn’t make it to the blog because:

1. We’re valuing privacy and security and have opted to be shush about our whereabouts and,

2. If you’ve noticed, we’re choosing more tame itineraries that don’t involve whaleshark diving and cliff racing anymore because we’ve somehow become titos and titas of Zamboanga already. Our travel themes have somehow shifted from extreme to leisure. You can hear us talking about unplugging and detoxing already.

So here are the quick stats for 2019.


8- I left home eight times in 2019 for those personal travels. Including the official travel counts will undoubtedly increase and I can’t be bothered to count that too.

5- Of these are road trips. I’m surprised that people can withstand road trips that include crossing oceans just to get to island resorts.


In January, I spent New Year’s Day in Lakawon Island staring at the sunset wondering what’s to become of me and a huge task assigned to me in the workplace. Luckily, it all pulled off thanks to responsible people I can count on.



In April, C wanted to go to Samal Island so we made our way to Davao and Bukidnon and visited relatives in Balingasag and Jasaan. 



June was another out-of-town road trip to Cebu and Bohol with a special mission that involved taking my grandmother to Cebu in order for her to get home to Leyte. C drove us safely across with a crazy route, from Zamboanga to Dapitan to Cebu and we went as far as Bohol and vice-versa. Again full of stories but I didn't curate anything for the blog. (I'm still thinking about it though.)

In October I accompanied C to Manila and we (covertly) spent a few days immersing ourselves in the mountain city named Baguio. Our goal: detox. My goal: hoard succulents.



August is the highlight of my travel year though. It took us six flights, three cities, two countries and sooo many temples that I can’t again be bothered to count all of them in both Bangkok and Siem Reap



To end the year, my family went to Molave as an excuse to end the year and see the cold springs for ourselves-and we weren't disappointed. 

2020 has got to be another year of promise.

2020 plans for travel have yet to be cemented until after May, I’ve already planned out my vacations for the next six months, and for impromptu invitations, I always have to check with C and my family though- for reason number 1 and 2. And it’s always good to have company when traveling just in case something happens.

In summary, 2019 was about learning to slow down and unplug. I’m pretty grateful with the experiences this year, but I do know that there will be more to come in 2020. It’s a new decade after all and I trust the next chapter because I am the author.

Thank you for sticking with my travel stories. It’s going to be an exciting year ahead! 

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Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Destination Diary: Zamboanga del Sur



If you’re looking for a quick escape that’s still close to Zamboanga City for the year-end, Zamboanga del Sur is the best choice. Only about six hours away from the city, this itinerary is a two-day, one-night escape that’s very accessible and enjoyable for a family on a quick road trip.

Eriberta Spring Resort, Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur

1. Stop By Eriberta Spring Resort in Mahayag 


Now this is an understated jewel in the region. Located in Mahayag, Eriberta is owned by a family friend. Only an hour away from Pagadian, it’s set to be a go-to destination for people who want to unplug from city life. Because there’s weak signal for most telecoms in the area, it’s a great place to unwind and reconnect with nature.

Mini Falls in Eriberta Spring Resort

Accommodations are very affordable at only Php 800 for a cottage that can be occupied by 2-4 persons. Entrance fees are at only Php 50 per person. There’s a restaurant that can take orders which is very convenient for breakfast with a basic selection and instant coffee.

On February 14, the Infinity Pool and newer cottages shall start accepting guests that can accommodate up to 100 persons. However, reservations should be made two weeks in advance especially during the summer.



Mini clear pools in Eriberta Spring Resort

Most guests were Chavacano, because it’s really nearby and a good choice for a stopover on the way to Cagayan de Oro, especially during the year-end.


Mini Waterfalls in Eriberta Spring Resort, Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur

If you’re someone who wants to unplug, go to Eriberta and experience the cold water spring to rejuvenate your tired body and soul from all the year’s activities. The trip will be worth it.

Eriberta has some fun stories for us, ranging from scary to the plain crazy. As for us, we’ve found another stopover and maybe we will be back before you know it. 



2. Dine at the Vine Cafe in Molave


After all the swimming and soaking, we decided to explore the rest of the area and get in touch with civilization (areas within cellular coverage), and came across Vine Café and Bed and Breakfast.


It has eleven fully furnished rooms and a café and bar on the ground floor, which is also an events place for the young. The establishment was also popularized by travel vlogger Kulas of Becoming Filipino. The interiors reflect a cozy bed and breakfast, and there’s a wide menu for meals and snacks too.  We ordered mostly comfort food and heavy meals, so that wound us up for our next stop. 



3. Experience the Christmas Icons Lights Display in Tangub Plaza


Maybe it was curiosity that led us to Tangub, but it was still a worthwhile stop during the evening. The city plaza has become an attraction for families who want to look at the Christmas Icons Lights Display. It is an annual display where replicas of popular monuments around the globe are arranged, decked with lights making beautiful showcases at night.

A walkable replica of the Cascada Monumenta

The replica is made of Capiz Shells
Capiz shells were used in the walk-in replica of Cascada Monumenta 

Each display charges an entrance fee, ranging from Php 10 to Php 20 depending on the size of the display. We spent a lot of time in the tulip garden display which mimicked the thousand roses display in Cebu.

Replica of a Holland flower garden with lit flowers

After walking around and admiring the displays, there are vendors selling cotton candy and peanuts and a corner offering meals and barbecue. 






All in all, it was a good time spent with my family and a road trip where memories were made. Plus, more stories to tell. I’m leaving you with a few reminders and observations too and greeting you all a Happy New Year! Here’s to more adventures in 2020! Thank you for your continued support!

Reminders:

  • When taking photos inside the displays, be mindful of taking turns and respect elders. Don’t destroy the display just for the ‘gram.


  • Be responsible travelers by disposing of trash properly and being courteous to those who you meet.

  • Bring cash with you, not all establishments and vendors accept cards. Small denominations are convenient. 


Note: All input is based on my personal experiences in Zamboanga del Sur. This is in no way, a sponsored post.



*Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy A50.

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Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Destination Diary: Davao City



It’s my first time to actually post a blog out of a request for a travel itinerary for Davao City. Though it makes me happy to know that my advice is a factor in helping out people decide on what to do in a given city. So, thank you to friends and readers alike who find my travel guides helpful, you know I love receiving feedback from you!

Earlier this year, we headed on to Davao via Bukidnon through the BUDA Highway after spending a night in CDO. My brother’s argument was that we had to take the longer route first. True enough, this strategy would help us with our itinerary later on.


Olivia Sands Uraya Beach Resort

Indulge in the Beauty of Samal Island


Davao City’s LGU made it very easy for visitors to make their way to the beautiful attraction that is Samal Island. Through Sasa Port, which is only a ten-minute drive from our condo unit, everything in Sasa Port is organized. It only cost our car Php 250 with four passengers for the fees. Then all we had to do was to queue up behind the rest of the vehicles crossing the sound to the Island Garden of Samal, and after ten minutes, we were already entering the island after having paid Php60 for four people for environmental fees.

Samal Island has many beautiful resorts, ranging from the super affordable, to mid-range and the splurge-worthy.

For the super affordable, we first went to Kaputian Beach. With the help of Waze, it was a smooth ride. We paid the entrance fee of only Php 15 per person and settled down. However, we were immediately struck by boredom and decided to look for another resort with a little more privacy. Again, a few searches and suggestions from our dear friend Google led us to a mid-range resort called Uraya.

Now Uraya was very new, as it was on its soft-opening when we chanced upon it. Though a handful of people already knew about it, there were already families picnicking on the shore and couples doing their prenup photoshoots in Uraya. How new is new? There was still digging and construction ongoing beside the kitchen and the chef was also the waiter. But all is good because these were all minor observations because the beach is definitely worth it.

Olivia Sands Uraya Beach Resort, Samal Island

What I liked the most about Uraya is that it’s very clean, and I hope that the cleanliness is maintained. There’s also a nice dock that stretches to the ocean floating. Imagine that it’s set against blue waters reflecting clear skies, plus the white sand on the beach is spotless. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back to Uraya. Not bad for only Php 150 per person. 

But we didn’t stumble upon Uraya immediately though. We thought of first trying our luck in the Pearl Farm but to tell you honestly, we didn’t make it past the gates because day tours were not allowed and a night in the resort would cost Php 24K! It was double the rates of a standard room in Conrad Manila!

The Pearl Farm is a high-end resort that offers dining options, watersports and offers unique experiences for all its guests. However, that time, it wasn’t for us who were on a budget during our trip. Perhaps we can enjoy the Pearl Farm the next time.

Guinness World Record for Monfort Bat Caves

Visit Monfort Bat Caves


Also not to be missed in Samal Island is the Monfort Bat Caves. It’s a good experience for coming up close with a whole colony of fruit bats! For only Php100 per person, all you have to do is attend a short orientation and watch the bats’ activities in the caves.


One of a number of bat caves in the Monfort Sanctuary

The Monfort Bat Colony is the largest colony of Geoffrey’s Rousette Fruit Bats reaching approximately 1.8 million, earning a Guiness World Record. A visit is recommended for families, kids and a group of friends to learn more about the importance of bats in the ecology. However, visitors can stand only so long before a headache sinks in caused by the stench of guano. It’s a good immersive experience though.

If you’re going around the island by yourselves, Waze can help you out. 



Experience Roxas Night Market


Back in the city, we were fortunate to be able to book a condo unit through AirBnB (hello Avida Towers!). Our AirBnB was so accessible as it was only ten minutes away from Sasa Port and only a three-minute walk to Roxas Night Market. Unbelievable right?

Roxas Night Market is the place to be for Davaoeños after a long day that takes away the guessing for cheap eats. I think we went back to the night market for at least a couple of times, as there were rows and rows and rows of food from deep-fried, tasty desserts, barbecue, puso (rice wrapped in leaves), grilled seafood, to summery mango desserts and dimsum.

Food choices in Roxas Night Market, Davao

I love that it’s clean, safe and definitely has many food choices for people who just can’t make up their minds (I’m one of those haha). For a group of four, the most damage can hike up to about Php800, compared to eating in a pricey resto. Here, it’s affordable and very satisfying. Yum, right? 


Be A Chocolatier in Malagos Garden Resort


Oh Malagos.

Malagos is synonymous to Willie Wonka for me, as during my first time staying here, I chanced upon production day in the chocolate processing plant and the aroma of chocolate wafted throughout the whole garden.

For a start, Malagos is not just a garden resort but has also made a name for itself in the international chocolate scene as it supports local cacao farmers and constantly showcases its chocolate products abroad. For first-time visitors, a self-guided day tour can be availed of at the front desk for an entrance fee of Php 200. A map shall be given to you and you can make your way through the butterfly garden, the chocolate museum and other sites along the way.

Museo de Mariposa, Malagos Garden Resort Self-Guided Tour

The butterfly garden is a peaceful stroll along the garden as each guest is immersed in how to pick out flowers and shrubs that attract butterflies, and an exhibit is open to all visitors. I particularly liked the handmade book about paru-paru superstitions, too bad I couldn’t bring home a copy of it.

The highlight of this visit has to be the Chocolatier Experience, learn how to make your own chocolate for only Php 450 per person, both kids and adults can do this. Malagos chocolate is 65% dark chocolate and they have been exported all over the world. The cacao is grown on the farm and the chocolate factory is onsite. While waiting for your chocolate to be packed, you can sit at the cafe and enjoy some chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream and classic chocolate cake. 

Enjoying chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream, and a chocolate shake in the Malagos Cafe

Here’s some advice, store your DIY chocolate in the ref immediately, avoid leaving it in any hot areas so that your chocolate won’t melt. The finished product is also a good gift to share with family and friends. 

Finished product of our Chocolatier Experience in Malagos Chocolate Museum

Eden Nature and Adventure Park


We arrived in Eden Nature and Adventure Park right before lunchtime and just in time for the buffet. For only Php 700 per person, we were able to refuel in time for the tour around Eden Nature Park. Meals prepared in Eden are all grown organically in their farms. Outside, there are shops showcasing flowers and plants for sale and other products from the park.

Posing in the Giant Picture Frame in the Flower Garden, Eden Nature and Adventure Park, Davao


There are so many activities to do in Eden such as going on a tour, swimming, fishing, and skyriding. We opted for the guided shuttle tour around the 40-hectare attraction that took 45 minutes. With three stops, we were also able to take photos in the various gardens. Tour guides can also teach you fun poses in each stop. Tours are on a first-come, first-serve basis so it pays to be early.


Acting silly in the Cultural Village at Eden Nature and Adventure Park

What I really liked about Davao is that it's accessible to many attractions and makes a worthy stop for a road trip. That, plus there's endless options for food whether it's save or splurge. After Davao we made our way back to Bukidnon and finally stayed with family in Balingasag and Jasaan before staying in Cagayan de Oro.

That's it for my Davao travel guide, and from a more personal note, thank you for sticking with me throughout the various travels I take. Keep the comments and the love coming, you know I love hearing from you, my readers!



Reminders

·  When visiting other nations, we are responsible for our own behavior and should observe proper customs as the locals do, as we are only guests in their country.

·  Be responsible travelers by disposing of trash properly and being courteous to those you meet, especially the elderly and locals. 

Where we stayed: AirBnB 25th floor Avida Towers Hosted by Prosperty Property (AirBnB) with a view of Samal Island

Note: All input is based on my personal experiences in Davao City. Our group made arrangements prior to our travel dates. This is in no way, a sponsored post.


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Monday, 9 September 2019

Destination Diary: Siem Reap, Cambodia



Bangkok and Siem Reap contrast each other. While the former has everything moving at a fast pace, the latter is living a very relaxed life. The former is so modern in terms of infrastructure and basic services, the latter has a problem with community drainage and still needs to figure out how to effectively generate employment for the locals.

However, Siem Reap is growing. Give or take five years, it may be unrecognizable except for a few landmarks. But surely, both cities never ceased to impress me, which is why Thailand is called the Land of Smiles and Cambodia is aptly known as The Kingdom of Wonder. The town is aptly called Siem Reap, which translates to the Defeat of Siam, back in the ancient days when these neighboring kingdoms would go at war with each other.

More and more Filipinos are visiting Siem Reap (evident with locals already greeting you “kamusta kayo” in the ticketing office and children offering souvenirs for “apat-isang daan”) and if you’re one of those who have next to no self-control of booking flights and a supportive boyfriend who also has the travel bug, here’s my guide for Siem Reap:


Weaving silk with different colored silk thread

Visit the Angkor Artisan Village and Silk Farm

Lying on the outskirts of town is an artisan village which provides livelihood to the community (Puok District). Imagine stepping into a workshop of weavers, where the same process is done very similar to how it was like a couple of hundred, if not a thousand years ago. The beautiful textiles produced from the silk worms were used to dress Khmer royalty in the ancient kingdom.

Founded in 1992 through a partnership between a European NGO and the Ministry of Education, Artisans operates vocational centers in Cambodia to train people in Khmer crafts. The Angkor Silk Farm employs more than 400 people.

I can only imagine what the Khmer royalty wore in their day. This photo is the closest that can show how they dressed.


Photo of Khmer People wearing traditional silk garments

The tour is free, and you can purchase silk souvenirs and apparel from the boutique at the end of the tour. Because it is very tedious and entails precise skills for extraction and weaving, now we know why premium silk is expensive. Of course, if you’re after premium silk, you might as well get it here. Naturally, cash is king.

Angkor Artisans Silk Farm Boutique

Neary Khmer Restaurant

Get A Taste of Khmer Dishes in Neary Khmer Restaurant 

We are no strangers to Khmer dishes, but we cannot ever pass up an authentic dining experience in Siem Reap. Our driver brought us here to try out all the Khmer dishes that we can think of, and the table was instantly filled and also instantly wiped out by hungry travelers. I would definitely come back here for those spring rolls and the salad.


Don't miss out on the spring rolls, pickled salad and pork while in Neary Khmer Restaurant

Go On A Temple Run: Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm


And we resume the temple run in Siem Reap, with the highlight of our visit, Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm. My advice is to go to the ticketing office a day early to save time the next day. Because the best time to go is at sunrise, all alarms were set for three o’clock the next morning. We had breakfast from one of the mobile restos in the area right across the parking lot. Breakfast consisted of a double toast with a side serving of deep fried potato, and I got a kale and mint smoothie to top up my coffee earlier.

We then proceeded to sit outside the bridge and film a time lapse of the sunrise. Shortly after, we explored Angkor Wat. Our group consisted of six people, but my parents opted to hire a guide to take them around for $25, us millenials went about our own pace, taking photos and considering the fact that we can always look up the facts and details online. In other words, we split up.


Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious monument and one of the 7 Wonders of the World

But whether or not you hire a guide, you still get to explore Angkor Wat and also take your time and enjoy while you’re there. There are monks who also visit regularly and can offer a blessing in exchange for a small donation. 


Receiving a blessing from one of the monks in Angkor Wat


Because we hired a van for the day, we were fortunate to have it waiting for us in the parking lot, refresh ourselves and proceeded to Bayon Temple.


Bayon Temple

Bayon faces up close from one of the towers in the temple 

From the gate alone, there is the serene, smiling face that welcomes visitors, and its distinctive features are the Apsara carvings in key areas of the temple. There’s a straight road leading to the temple, and here monkeys freely roam around as if they are already used to the presence of tourists. But it’s better to keep one’s distance just to be safe.  An hour or so is enough to take photos and explore Bayon. As usual, most information online can be looked up about the temple, but for added details, guides can be hired.


The bridge to Bayon features gods on the left side and demons on the right side, but some have been desecrated when Bayon was sacked during the war 
Monkeys can be seen on the street on the way to Bayon Temple

There are 216 serene faces as showcased in Bayon, and scholars have theorized that the faces are of King Javayarman VII who considered himself a god-king. While his ancestors were Hindu, he identified himself as Buddhist (Wikipedia/ Bayon).


Bayon Temple Gates 
Apsara bas reliefs in Bayon Temple




To our third and final temple, we headed on to Ta Prohm. 


Ta Prohm is the filming location of the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie

Now Ta Prohm is known in Hollywood terms as the Tomb Raider temple, and Lara Croft fans will immediately recognize this from the movie.


An entrance to the temple's center, it looks like a portal to a blast to the past

Although not originally a part of the initial plans of the temple, centuries later, its most distinctive features will become that of the trees that are threatening the temple. It also has many beautiful bas reliefs and efforts are seen to help preserve it from the jungle that’s taking over.

The temple's stele records that the site was home to more than 12,500 people (including 18 high priests and 615 dancers), with an additional 80,000 souls in the surrounding villages working to provide services and supplies. The stele also notes that the temple amassed considerable riches, including gold, pearls and silks.[7] Expansions and additions to Ta Prohm continued as late as the rule of Srindravarman at the end of the 15th century. (Wikipedia/ Ta Prohm)


The jungle threatens to take over the temple and adds an eerie and magical touch to it

If you ask me which one is my favorite of the temples visited, I can’t give you a straight answer because it’s difficult to pick just one. All have their best features and special characters, like the Bayon faces, Apsara carvings, towers and intricate details. Each one is an attraction on its own and possesses its own kind of beauty.


After lunch in a nearby restaurant and having realized that we’ve finished our temple run, there I was, with a full belly and contented soul thinking to myself, it’s the best US$37 I ever spent. 




Make A Donation to Victims of Land Mines 

As Cambodia is a country still bearing the wounds of the Khmer Rouge, land mine survivors and orphans have turned to music to gather donations in order to survive. Walking around town, we have come to recognize that these performers play traditional, pleasant music for passers-by and have come to capitalize on willing ears who are able to spare a few dollars.

I was surprised to find out that these survivors were former soldiers who were fighting the Khmer Rouge back then. I also noticed that on the way to Ta Prohm, children who accompany the musicians are usually orphans who have lost their family members to land mines.

If you have a few dollars or riels, your donations can go a long way to victims of land mines. Not only that, they perform music that has been passed down from Khmer ancestors that’s full of history spanning thousands of years. We noticed that it’s only the instruments producing music as there’s usually no singing to accompany the pieces. But the music floating through the air is still beautiful as the Cambodian landscape. 


Artwork for sale in Angkor Wat
Young artists display their art pieces in Ta Prohm

 Buy Artwork From the Locals 

Most locals are taking advantage of the 1.5 Million tourists that visit Siem Reap annually. Students also find gigs to earn for university, and most have produced artwork to sell to tourists. In the temples of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, people display their art and anyone is free to choose their favorite pieces for purchase. 


Home decor for sale in Siem Reap

Shop For Souvenirs and Dine in Pub Street

After a day of temple run under the sun, it’s easy to be templed out. So we planned to visit Pub Street for some souvenir shopping and dining. There are rows and rows of restaurants, the real problem is deciding where to eat.


Pub Street in full swing at night

Because so many tourists of different nationalities have fancied staying in Siem Reap, one could see a pizzeria operating beside a Mongolian barbecue, opposite a Korean ice cream shop, situated beside a Chinese spa. Pub Street has become so diverse that the night scene has so much to offer a templed-out-but-happy person.


Cambodian Draft Beer in Triangle Barbecue and Restaurant

When in Pub Street though, ask for a glass of Cambodian Draft Beer. It’s all part of the Siem Reap dining experience, who knows, you will be able to pick a favorite from the menu.

 For a stay of two days, I can say that I like the peaceful Cambodian countryside and have enjoyed my stay in Siem Reap. Plus, I got to cross-off my Temple Run from my bucket list. Even if Siem Reap left me feeling in a good mood because of my fill of history, architecture and sightseeing, there’s nothing stopping me from coming back when circumstances permit in the future. 

Reminders

·  When visiting other nations, we are responsible for our own behavior and should observe proper customs as the locals do, as we are only guests in their country.

·  Be responsible travelers by disposing of trash properly and being courteous to those you meet, especially the elderly and locals. 

Note: All input are based on my personal experiences in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our group made arrangements prior to our travel dates. This is in no way, a sponsored post.

*Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy A50.

If you liked this post, please like my