Jeonju: Beyond the Bibimbap


While planning for my Korea trip (yes, again! ^^ 4th time!) last May, I made sure to include Jeonju in my itinerary after reading somewhere that it’s the motherland of bibimbap. Who doesn’t love bibimbap? It’s such a healthy and fuss-free meal!

There are a lot of highly recommended restaurants to try bibimap in Jeonju but we decided to ate at Gogung since it was just near the hanok we stayed in and it was the nearest in our vicinity where were already hungry. To make sure we get to try different bibimbaps, my friends and I ordered a set meal that comes with a serving of the Jeonju traditional bibimbap, Jeonju dolsot bibimbap and Yukhoe bibimbap.

Three kinds of bibimbap!

Of the three, I still liked the Jeonju traditional bibimbap the most as the other two were a bit too spicy for my liking. All were delicious though! Even the side dishes (the soup!!!) were great. It was definitely a worthwhile dining experience!

Continue reading

Nara’s Charm


I had the chance to visit Japan in October 2018 for free (thanks to a cancelled flight to Busan!). Knowing how beautiful Japan’s naturescape will be, I already had high expectations for its “sereneness”. There were four cities on my itinerary: Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and Nagoya.

Osaka has beautiful parks and castles. The cleanliness of the city (much the rest of Japan) is impeccable. Nagoya, on the other hand, is architecturally stunning. It will be a haven for people who love modern structures. Kyoto is a mix of old the new. It’s city center is modern but as urban as Nagoya and Osaka. Then, interspersed in the city are the reminders  of what makes Japan, especially its history and culture, so distinct.

View this post on Instagram

Ultra modern structures in #Nagoya.

A post shared by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

Nara, on the other hand, was quite a surprise for me. Deers were the only thing that I know about the place, only to find out  that it has a lot of charms. By Japanese city standards, Nara is small. In fact,   one can visit the major tourist sites in one day and access them all by foot. For a small city though, structures in Nara are astounding and are spread out horizontally.

Continue reading

Google Hacks for a Breezy Do-It-Yourself Trip


There was a time that I was able to write a travel diary after every travel. I even managed to write one entry per day of a travel! Wow! Where did I get all the time?! But then life and wanderlust happened. I planned travels faster that I could write about them so now I have 4 years and 22 trips worth of backlog!

In those years of traveling, I’ve only booked a tour package thrice: during a trip to Bohol in 2014, a trip to Northern Vietnam in 2015, and a trip to Sagada in 2016. The only reason I did so was because I was travelling with a large group and the public transportation option between our target destinations was not very convenient. More often that not, I prefer planning my own itinerary because I usually set a maximum budget per trip. I then adjust my itinerary, accommodation, food and transportation options according to that maximum budget. And how do I manage to do this? It’s through everybody’s best friend: GOOGLE!

Yeah, Google has been pretty much my travel planing bff in addition to Booking.com. There are so many travel apps around but I always go back to these two for a seamless travel plan. Below are some of the Google hacks that I love and use a lot in planning my travels:

  1. Looking for cheap flights through Google Search

The best way to know about flight promos is still to subscribe to the alerts of plane companies. But there’s also a feature in Google Search that allows you to search for the lowest flights. Just type the IATA code of your origin and destination airports, then Google will give you the different flights available. You can further refine the search according to price, travel period, etc.

Flight search from Manila to Bangkok.

Continue reading

That Day in Spring


I patiently waited for the next bus that will take us back to Busan, South Korea. It a was cold night back in April. I was in Jinhae Bus Station, happy and contented after experiencing my first cherry blossom festival.

Surreal.

We were not the first persons in line so I thought my friend, Ate B, and I might not be seated together. True enough, when the bus arrived, the window seats got filled quickly. We ended seating across each other in aisle seats. I glanced at my seatmate and noted he was probably a European based on the language he was speaking while on a phone call. A few seconds after his call, he was sniffing and he took out a roll of tissue. I thought to myself he probably has colds due the weather.

Continue reading

An Ode to Kaya


I love kaya toast. Did I say that? Yeah, I love kaya toast…specifically Ya Kun Kaya’s toast. Who doesn’t love Singapore’s national breakfast? I am drooling just thinking about the sweetness of the kaya and a serving of a perfectly soft-boiled egg. Here in Manila, I usually get my fix of kaya toast in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 branch of Ya Kun Kaya. When I am flying from NAIA 2, I make sure always drop by Ya Kun Kaya before heading to the boarding gate. Sadly, this year I had less work-related travels (though I am not asking for more) compared to 2017, so less kaya toast for me.

Thoughts about kaya toast always brings back good memories. I recall when and I two friends were in Singapore, being the aliens that we were, we went all the way to Chinatown just to get our kaya toast fix. The Ya Kun Kaya branch we went to did not even have its own stall. It just a had a small counter and several tables and chairs in the food court of a mall. We sat there in the middle of a humid afternoon, sipped our coffee, and spread out a map of Singapore in our table to figure out where to go next. What was so funny was we belatedly realize there was Ya Kun Kaya store just a flew blocks away from our hostel in Bugis.

Continue reading

Midweek


Yesterday, after a very toxic day at work, I ran somewhere. I met up with a friend and we had a bowl of ramen for dinner. Because I was pretty much not myself anymore, I managed to spill a lot of sesame seeds in my ramen. Imagine what my tonkotsu ramen tasted like! It wasn’t very bad but it was definitely crunchy. Afterwards, we each bought a scoop of ice cream and walked around the streets talking about random things.

I told my friend, “This is possible, huh? Take a break in the middle  of the week and let some steam out?”. She nodded and replied with a smile.

Continue reading

Fight or Flight


When people ask me these days what I fear the most, my answer would always be “to belatedly realize that I have already become part of the system I abhor”. In the Filipino language, it’s better known as “nilamon na ng sistema”.

It’s not only me who have this fear. After meeting with high school and college friends lately, I realized most of us have this fear or worry. Our common denominator is we are all in our late 20s or early 30s, struggling to climb our respective career ladders and general “in between” either in our respective communities and workplaces.

Continue reading

At Home


I sleep and sleep some more.

Because it’s not everyday I can sleep soundly. 

I eat and eat some more. 
Because it’s not everyday I can enjoy the food I love. 

I stare at the skies and stare some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I can appreciate a clear sky full of stars.

I laze and laze some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I am not chasing time. 

I play and play some more. 

Because it’s not everyday I get to be a kid.

At home…

I live and live some more. 

#TGIF


I got out of the van and looked at my wristwatch. It was 8 pm already. I had a very long week and today was no different. I also barely slept the previous night.

I can see the mall from where I stand. I crossed the street and debated on whether I should still eat dinner and buy some groceries. I was too tired to do both. I decided to just go home.

It was still quite a long walk…12 mins I think.  On my way home, I thought about the things that need to be done for work. There are a lot. I cannot even fathom where to start and I cannot imagine if there is an endpoint.

Continue reading

Where is Home? 


My brother  arrived in our apartment a few days ago exclaiming he is going home over the weekend. I asked him why he is going home again when he just visited a month ago. He replied, “Because I am suffering from homesickness lately.”

I often forget that my brother has only lived in Manila for 3 years. To date, he has lived most of his life in Bicol. On the other hand, I am more of stranger and occasional visitor in our family house, being away since I was 11. That’s almost 17 years.

I tried to recall what it feels to be homesick. Missing your pillow and beds at home? I don’t have those. I don’t even have a room and a cabinet in our house. The local neighborhood? I barely even know who lives in our street now.

Earlier, I had the same thoughts again while looking at the Christmas lights that decorate the trees on the way to my apartment. I said to myself, “It’s almost Christmas again. I can finally have a long vacation at home.”

Home will always be an interesting concept for people who have lived in so many places. What defines it? The physical structure, the people, the memories? As for me, home… is a place where my mom and siblings are, where I can enjoy my favorite dishes, and exist for a while without caring what the world demands from me.

I guess I am homesick after all and I am not even making any sense.

Human


Every now and then

You stumble, you fall 

To a point where you can’t stand up. 

You cry, you bleed

To take the pain out. 

You fear, you doubt

Because you can’t hope enough. 

Yet you smile, you laugh

Because that’s when you are at your best. 

You love, you give

Because you’re human,

You’re unpredictable. 

You’re beautiful. 

You live. 

Parallel Existence


You and me, we move in the same space.

The left is yours. 

The right is mine. 

An exact replica of each other. 

You, 9 to 6. I, 9 to 6. 

You look up to  sky to count the hours until sunset. 

I look down to count the hours  until sunrise.

You, wondering how it is to be different. 

I, trying to define what is normal. 

You and me, we move in the same space. 

But never at the same time. 

What Changed?


Your style has gotten classier.

You don’t fret over sales.

You value quality over quantity.

You don’t say yes to every invitation.

You don’t bother to please everybody.

You pause.

You laugh at yourself.

You listen.

You shut up.

You don’t stress over every single thing.

You stand up for yourself.

You choose your friends.

You choose your battles.

You are confident.

You are wiser.

Nothing changed.

You just got older.

Surprises in Manila


I’ve been living in Metro Manila for almost 12 years now yet I realize there is still a lot I do not know about it especially its capital, Manila. It actually took an invite from a friend from Cebu to go out of my apartment on a rainy day and realize that…

…San Agustin Church has a very dramatic altar. I’ve passed this church several times but it was only yesterday that I sat inside the church for awhile and absorbed its altar’s beauty.

 

Continue reading

Constant


If people were waves

That come and go,

Can there be a constant

That tie them to their roots?

 

If you were a constant

Amidst a sea of people

How much effort do you require

To keep you from drifting away?

 

Written on an early morning while walking the streets of Paranaque.