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.
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.
El Nido is probably in the travel bucket list of every Filipino, if not at least on the list of hardcore travelers. And it is for a variety of reasons: it’s the Philippine’s last frontier, it’s gorgeous, it’s untouched by urbanity, etc. etc. Despite these, El Nido remains an elusive destination for most us due to rumors that it’s an expensive destination, it’s very hard to reach and so on. Is El Nido too good to be true then?
El Nido: too good to be true?
I had the chance to test how true these rumors are when my friends and I booked a ticket to Palawan during the Cebu Pacific Independence seat sale last year. With sufficient time to save and plan, I realized El Nido is a very manageable destination for a budget traveler like me. Two weeks ago, the dream travel finally came true, and my friends and I saw ourselves in the fine white sands of El Nido.
You might find that there’s a disconnect in the title of this post. It’s related to my travel to Seoul but talks about the Thai way of saying “hello”. You see, I had very interesting tales associated with this greeting when I was in Seoul last October.
Upon arrival in Seoul, I and my friend Me-an immediately braved the cold streets of Myeong-dong to look for food, the best dollar to won exchange rates, and cardigans to augment our cold weaponry. I was in awe not just of the number of people in the area but the variety of things that can be bought. Myeong-dong truly lives up to its name of being one of Seoul’s premiere shopping destination!
Myeong-dong for you!
After happily walking out of a small stall, my spirit was blown out of my body when a man selling bags greeted us a with a very loud, “Sawa dee Krap!”. We just laughed so the man smiled back. Perhaps he was thinking “I got this in the bag”. Too bad just we laughed out of shock and the hilariousness of being mistaken as Thais.
On our 2nd night, we ventured to the more artsy street of Insadong where I found out street performances and magic shows are just ordinary happenings.
Yeah. Figure it out.
Paintings for sale at Insadong.
While quietly checking out the stalls, we were surprised again when someone shouted at us, “Sawa dee Krap!”. By that time I figure out I really probably looked like a Thai.
I am trying to catch up with my travel diaries but since my work and graduate school activities also involve a lot of writing, I barely have time to write for this blog. My backlog has now totaled to four travels and this does not even include my unfinished Ilocos travel series. So, I thought of a roundabout solution about my dilemma and I realized photo essay is the way to go!
First stop is Baler, a town in the Aurora province of the Philippines. It can be reached through five-six hour bus trip from Manila. I went there around the end of January this year. It was an unplanned trip. A friend called me up to ask if I want to go to Baler on a long weekend. Being the wanderer that I am, I accepted her invitation.
Rocky cliffs of Baler.
It was very cold and a bit rainy when we went there. It was the peak of the northeast monsoon int he Philippines so temperatures were around 12-18 degrees Celsius.
A falls by the highway! Yup! Just beside the highway!
Months ago, I bought a plane ticket to Seoul, South Korea to satisfy my wonder of what it feels to walk and live in the place whose culture I am so fascinated with. Little did I know that beyond quenching my wonders, I would also fall in love…. with a season.
The beautiful trees in Changdeokgung Palace.
It was my first time to see autumn, and boy, it was love at first sight. It was such a surreal experience for someone from a tropical country to witness the changing of seasons.
The Deoksugung Palace Wall.
The best displays of autumn foliage were on the countryside, particularly Nami Island and the area around Petite France. Nami Island is hands down a beautiful, beautiful place.
It wasn’t even the peak of autumn yet, yet the countryside was already so beautiful. How magnificent would these places be at the peak of autumn?
Siquijor is a quaint small island in the Central Visayas, Philippines. The island is perhaps best known for its tales of mambabarangs or sorcerers. I visited Siquijor last month and I was quite surprised that its beauty goes far beyond the mysteries that people have associated it to. Its beaches are untouched by urbanity and its waters are one of the most turquoise I’ve seen in the Philippines. The picture in my previous post was in fact taken in Salagdoong Beach, in the town of Maria, Siquijor.
What caught my attention the most; however, were not the beaches but the Tupalos Marine Sanctuary and Tree Houses. The locals built a walkway and tree houses among the mature mangrove trees. The tree houses were even for rent! My favorite was the walkway that extends beyond the mangrove forest to a cottage in the open sea. The view was outstanding and I thought how nice it would be to live in such place and wake-up to the peaceful view. So dreamy!
I remember in December 2013 I posted that I felt so “out of life” by the year-end. I concluded that I was not good at multitasking–juggling work and school. I am now wondering what I felt that way when my activities this year and last year were almost the same. It generally revolves around work and school. Then I realized the difference: I traveled more this year. On the contrary, I only traveled twice last year. That two travels were not enough to sustain my enthusiasm for the rest of the year. It’s now October and so far I’ve been on four trips since January. I still have two coming up. My savings are dwindling yet I haven’t felt this sustained kind of happiness and enthusiasm for a while. I guess this saying really applies to me:
“I travel not to escape life but for life not to escape me. “
Travel has been my means to keep in touch with my sanity and to remind myself that there’s more to life that just my cubicle at work or my virtual classroom for school. It’s my means of getting in touch with nature and of relearning the simplicity of life. It’s my way of rekindling with friends and rediscovering why we have been friends in the first place. It’s my way of discovering that despite every thing I learned, I still know too little about life, of what it means to live and breathe. I officially caught the bug and I don’t think I will be able to let go soon.
So, forgive me if I have been on hiatus. I have been here and there, trying to juggle three lives. However, I will surely but slowly share what I experienced in life lately.
In a recent to visit to Siquijor, Philippines. Now or never.
It’s been a while since I’ve done something extreme. The last was probably my white water rafting adventure in Davao City in December of 2012. I don’t even know what made me do it back then. And I am not sure if I will ever have the guts to repeat that kind of experience.
Last Friday, I was reminded partly of the thrill I experienced in Davao. I and few of my officemates decided to try out the ramen at Ramenagi at SM Mall of Asia. After dinner, I had a sudden urge to ride a bump car so we proceeded to the SM Mall of Asia Amusement Mark. We first tried a spaceship-like ride where the passengers are whirled in all sorts of direction possible. Because of its action, we even nicknamed it “The Drier”. Afterwards, we tried out the bump cars. The car was slower than I imagined it. I maneuvered it with ease reminding me of all the days I spent part paring for bump car rides in high school. Lastly, we tried the ride where we were bolted suddenly up in the air, then dropped at a rate even faster than we were holed up.
At one point while suspended in the air, I opened my eyes and saw the bright lights coming from the streets and the mall. I thought it was such a good view but my bigger question for myself…why do we seek such kind of extreme experiences? The obvious answer is the thrill we experience from doing something extreme can be exhilarating…too exhilarating that some even make it as a form of living. But then again, why do we need to feel such kind of thrill? Why do we need to defy every possible law of gravity we’ve known?
It’s a hard question to answer. I myself can’t explain the elation I feel why I am suspended up in the air while riding a zip line or even when I am just climbing a 500-step stairs not knowing what waits for me at the end of the climb.
It’s one of the wonders of being human. The extent to which we are willing to put ourselves in just to explore the difference facets of our existence.
I’ve been wanting to finish this diary for quite some time now. Heck, it’s been eight months since this trip happened but since then work and school has been constantly eating my time. These days, it’s semester break already so I have some extra time to backtrack my travel diaries! I was actually alarmed that I could not remember already some of the names of the island we visited. Thankfully, I have my trusty notepad where I usually write the names of the places I visited and my expenses when I travel.
In my first Caramoan post, I last talked about Cagbalinad island. Day 2 was also about island hopping while on Day 3, we visited some sites in the town proper. Without further ado… here’s the rest of my Caramoan adventure.
For the second part of our Pangasinan trip, we went to Bolinao which is just an hour away from Alaminos City if you’re traveling via a private vehicle.
I told my friends that by 9 AM we should already be at Villa Carolina Resort in Bolinao because we still have a day tour around the town. We agreed to wake up at 5:30 AM but as usual since I always experience “pamamahay” whenever I’m in a new place, I was already awake around 3:15 AM. By 5:20 AM, I was already at the inn’s balcony waiting for the sunrise. It was worth the wait since I got this awesome view.