Tuesday, December 31

2013

2013 is a grand year for me.  Why? It was my year to finally write off several exotic places in my travel bucket list.  I did not get to travel as often as in 2012.  But this decision was proven worthwhile as I have gone to Palawan, explored the islands and even went as far as to the very exotic country which is India.


Meeting New Friends


Again, just like in 2012, the most precious gift a traveler can have while on the road is to meet new friends.  Friendships forged with the same love for traveling is often lasting.  The exhiliration of meeting and planning my trips with these people are beyond words.  Now, I already consider a two week travel super short. Thanks to them.


These guys made my second visit to Calaguas more memorable
And I finally traveled again with Marx and met the legendary Josiah Sicad! 
Peace Josiah!  I know you might hate me! lol

This trip definitely opened my eyes about the past and the future

Friday, December 20

SEAIR I To Fly Special Holiday Flights for the Christmas Season

Manila, December 18, 2013. SEAIR International (SEAIR I) will fly Special Holiday Flights for the Christmas Season. 

On December 26 – 30 and January 2 – 5, SEAIR I will be flying from Manila Domestic Terminal 4 to Caticlan Airport, the main airport for the paradise island of Boracay. As a special treat, these special premium leisure flights are being offered to cater to the increasing volume of tourists and vacationers heading to Boracay for Christmas and New Year, especially since there is a last minute shortage of flights to Caticlan. 

The special holiday flights cost P9,927.20, round trip, inclusive of all taxes, fuel surcharge, domestic passenger service charge and free 20 kilos baggage allowance. 

Flight inquiries, booking and reservations may be directed to the SEAIR I call center at (02) 849-0101. For more information on the special holiday flights, visit www.flyseair.com. 
SEAIR International uses the Dornier 328 aircraft to provide the fastest flights from Manila to Caticlan in just 35 minutes. It has a large seat pitch with a feel of a big jet and is designed with sufficient interior volume per passenger. 

For Boracay flight reservations, visit www.flyseair.com or call 849-0101. Please like the SEAIR Facebook fan page at www.facebook/flyseair for updates on promotions and new routes.

Thursday, December 12

On Love and The Sunsets of my Life

Playa de Oro Beach aka Mindoro Beach, Vigan

I find sunsets romantic.  I specifically do not know why. Perhaps because the sun's rays gives off a warm, softened feeling.  Much like when are you are having coffee with a special someone, in a quiet corner of a lonely cafe in the metro with only a dim, overhead yellow light serving as your guide. 

Corong Corong Beach, El Nido, Palawan

Monday, December 9

Tuesday, December 3

Wander Photo: November 2012

It's been a year since I had a love affair with dear Mt. Pinatubo.  The hours spent traversing lahar-filled landscape was worth it. I vividly remember how Its azure blue lake coolly welcomed us.

  I would not mind re-visiting her again.  For now, I will be content in reading back what happened here

Thursday, November 28

What to Wear in India for Women Travelers

Prior to this trip, I had a hard time selecting my wardrobe for the whole duration of our stay.  I admit I had apprehensions proceeding with this voyage since the onslaught of several violent cases against women starting from the 2012 Delhi gang rape. Almost each month thereafter, the media did not fail in delivering grim news about local women and female travelers alike. Either from a simple child molestation case to devastating gang rape stories. Such incidents, no matter the scale, should be treated and dealt with equal fervor. Somehow I turned a blind eye from all of those events.

A year before, there were supposed to be five of us. However, three did not push through for whatever personal reasons they may have. Since I have already purchased non-refundable tickets and truly fueled by my secret desire to finally lay my eyes on Taj Mahal, I went ahead with friend Marx as planned.


Scouring through many travel blogs and Indian forums, I somehow got a rough idea on how women visiting this colorful country should dress up.  Most advise I have read were to dress modestly which emphasized on the do-not-expose-too much-skin topic. If possible, you can dress like the locals if you are comfortable about it. A Salwar Kameez is worn by almost all local women, in the cities and far-flung provinces alike. Kurta for women are also worn just like what I am wearing below. However, as an alternative, you may create your own ensemble. Of course, you can still wear the usual jeans and shirts. Just always have a shawl/scarf ready around your shoulders. I opted to not choose the latter since I wanted to blend in.



Kurta for women: bought this pair in a local bazaar in Jaipur
In my case, I bought several loose pants/fitted leggings and matched these with colorful, long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops with matching head scarfs. These attire may not be comfortable for all but it helped made me at ease in my movements since we were out touring all day. It greatly helped covered a woman's gentle curves. Avoiding form-fitting and glitzy outfit would help minimize lewd stares and ward off unwanted attention. Remember, that being a foreigner alone, you will be stared at no matter what. I think blending in the culture not only helps in your safety but also as a respect to the local culture.


Photo op in front of one of the mosques inside Taj Mahal complex
The loose category definitely helped in regulating my body temperature and protected my skin from direct sunlight exposure. I chose to wear flat shoes good for walking in all kinds of weather. A scarf does not only serve as sun protection but it is also a must-wear in entering some religious sites.  
Varanasi women in vibrant saris
For daily activities, best to bring your travel essentials in a small body bag or bag pack. Mine was equipped with a bottle of alcohol, wet napkins, face powder, tissue, comb, my wallet with small change and a bottle of water. You may secure your more important travel documents like passport, ATM cards/credit cards and cash closer to your body.  
At Humayon's Tomb, New Delhi
All in all, my stay in India was chaotic, harried, colorful but memorable.  A lifetime's worth of memories which can only be achieved by being there. By experiencing the obvious first hand.  I believe that taking the necessary precautions and doing intensive research, women can still safely travel in this incredible country.


_____________
Other parts in this series

Part 1   How to Apply for an Indian Tourist Visa
Part 2   Smyle Inn :-)
Part 3   Karan's Guesthouse: Your Home in Jaipur
Part 4   Kolkata's Sunny Sunflower Guesthouse
Part 5  Goa's Little Secret
Part 6  One Night in Kuala Lumpur
Part 7  Brave in Bangalore
Part 8  Ghost of Goa
Part 9  Magnificent Mumbai
Part 10 You are on it!
Part 11 Romantic Udaipur
Part 12 Israel, Morocco and the Fort of Chittorgargh
Part 13 Pondering in the Pink City
Part 14 New Delhi Baby!
Part 15 The Red Fort
Part 16 Whirling Emotions
Part 17 Varanasi's Traditions 
Part 18 Kolkata and Calcutta
Part 19 Off to Pattaya!
Part 20 India Trip at a Glance
Part 21 India Trip Backpacking Expenses




Thursday, November 21

The Other Way to Pagsanjan Falls

After my arrival from India a few weeks earlier, I found my feet becoming itchy again.  I agreed to my friend's invite in visiting the famed Pagsanjan Falls.  I have been to Pagsanjan town a couple of times but never have I laid eyes on the actual falls itself.  Who was I t turn down such an invite?  And so me and my seven friends enjoyed its cool waters one very happy Monday.

Among seven of my travel buddies, I only know three of them personally.  I missed Chino so much that the moment I saw him I guessed I ignored the others to whom I should have said hello first (#peace!).  I smiled at Jherson's and Arjay's familiar grins.  Then I admired the online stars in the persons of Jeffrey and Glen. Lastly, two young men were initiated in our loud circle of travel bloggers sitting at the corner of McDonald's Sta. Cruz, Xander and Richard.  Their muse arrived a little late, but not too late. 

We headed towards Pagsanjan town proper to meet Kuya from the local tourism office. We bought packed binalot lunch and top-loaded towards Pueblo El Salvador Eco Park in Tibatib, Cavinti, Laguna.  It was my second time and the 30-minute ride towards the falls was a very enjoyable experience for all of us.  I suddenly remembered my very first on-top-of-the-world ride back in Camarines Norte.  Incidentally, that was when we were also heading for waterfalls.

Back:  Xander,  Richard, Glen
Middle:  Arjay, Chino
Front:  Glen, Jherson and me

Monday, November 11

Magnificent Mumbai

We took a local plane from Goa to Mumbai which left at 7:30 am.  After about an hour's flight, we reached Mumbai and dared to reach the city center by taking the train. Carrying all our heavy bags, we bought our tickets but did not know on which platform we were supposed to be heading.  Our arrival coincided with several trains' arrival so people were rushing to the exit. Tired and quite overwhelmed by what we witnessed, Marx and I just decided to take the cab.  About an hour later, we reached our hotel with the skies threatening to cry.

We stayed at Travelers Inn located in a side street a few blocks away from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus famous .  I was struck on how beautiful and the intricate this structure was. If this was not located in the center of a busy intersection, I'm sure that I could spend an entire day taking snapshots of her different angles.  However, we did not spent much time since we only have an afternoon to explore the bustling city.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus panoramic view





Monday, November 4

The Ghost of Goa

After completing our first full day in India, next on our list was the once Portuguese-ruled town that is called Goa.  We hopped on a sleeper bus at INR 800 per person, arriving at the following day at noon time.  Our host , Sand Castle guest house instructed us to take a taxi from the terminal. From there we alighted in front of Novotel Resort and finally reached our home for the next two days.  We rested for a few hours after having lunch and headed on to the nearly deserted Candolim beach which was just a five-minute walk from our hostel.

Dog prints everywhere!
Late afternoon at Candolim Beach



Monday, October 28

Brave in Bangalore

India is not included in some tourists' must-see places bucket list. However, having been exposed to souls with the same passion, my yearning for the new and undiscovered led me to agree in taking on a wild and unexpected journey to one of the world's most diverse and populous country.

After about five hours of travel time from Kuala Lumpur, our plane finally landed quietly in Bengaluru International Airport. Before the wheels touched India's landmass, I had a glimpsed above how vast the country of India really was. All I saw were plains, tiny buildings and curving rivers as far as my eyes can see.  I did not have a window seat so I just got content in getting flitting glimpses from the tiny window. The clouds partly hid the view but it still was breathtaking at first glance. The feeling was like falling in love. Exciting, thrilling but always with a hint of uncertainty.


While proceeding to the immigration counters, the below sign greeted us. Visa-on-arrival were given to some ASEAN countries including the Philippines.  If we had known this, perhaps we would consider not applying for a tourist visa back home.  But it is also convenient since you no longer have to spend more time at the airport when all you want to do is drop your bags at the hotel, jump on the bed and sleep.

Monday, October 21

One Night in Kuala Lumpur

It was my first time to travel alone in and out of the country.  Though my friend Marx joined me the next day, it had not really occurred to me that it will actually happen. The thought only sank in the moment I was booking my accommodation for a one-night stay here in Kuala Lumpur a few months back.

The Philippine Islands from above

Tuesday, October 15

Goa's Little Secret

I remember a friend constantly barraging me for updates on what Goa is like. Goa is famous for its long stretch of beach and is considered as one of the major tourist attractions of Western India.  

Sand Castle Guesthouse & Sand Witch Art Cafe. 
What a cool name!
Marx and I had the luxury of staying two nights in this quiet city. There are many big and posh resorts here but I guess staying in a cozy guesthouse will help you feel more at home. 

Saturday, October 12

Kolkata's Sunny Sunflower Guesthouse

Kolkata was the last leg in our two-week India marathon. We arrived early evening on September 29 at Howrah Junction. Again, India surprised us because we felt we were in another country once more.

Once outside, we immediately fell in line at the counter to get our prepaid taxi ticket and asked to be delivered promptly at 7 Royd St. where our guesthouse is located.

Twin A/C room with private bath and cable TV
Hotel lobby
India's treasures as displayed on the guest house's main lounge
WiFi is offered at INR 30 per hour

Friday, October 11

Karan's Guesthouse: Your Home in Jaipur

Arriving at Jaipur Junction promptly at six am, we wasted no time and hired a tuktuk to take us to our home for the next day: Karan's Guesthouse.

Karan's Guesthouse
Our tuktuk driver was having a difficult time communicating with us so we read out loud the guesthouse's address.  After some time, he dropped us off on a quiet street located in Chomu House,  Scheme  C, Jaipur.  

Twin A/C room with private bath, veranda and free WiFi
Our host, Sir Lokendra, was an early riser and greeted us once we rang the doorbell.  Homey and quiet, we were even served breakfast (thank you!) before we were sent off to our spacious room. 




We were supposed to just drop off our bags to start exploring the city.  However, with our stomachs full and tired from the overnight train ride, we found ourselves napping for a few hours.  I was expecting it will become noisy once the citizens of Jaipur awakens but our stay in Karan's Guesthouse often felt like it was always six in the morning.  

The location is perfect.  Not so far from the city's activities but close from all modes of transportation.  Backpackers using the rail will not have a hard time finding this as it is just within two-kilometers of Jaipur Junction.  Tuktuks are also abound in the adjacent main road.  




Visiting the Pink City? Why not make Karan's Guesthouse your home in Jaipur. 

Karan's Guesthouse

Facebook:  Karan's Guesthouse
Address:    D-76, Shiv Heera Path, Chomu House Colony, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001
E-mail:      kgh@aol.in |
Websites:  karansguesthouse.wordpress.com | www.karans.info

Tuesday, October 1

How to Apply for an Indian Tourist Visa

Applying for a tourist visa is one heck of a hurdle for tourists. But the idea of visiting an uncharted place almost makes this activity a come-on idea for travelers at heart.  

Me and Marx first attempted to file our applications last July 29.  However to our surprise, the attending clerk said that it was still too early since we are only to visit India for a couple of weeks, the embassy might decide to just give us a 1-month visa.  He even stated an example that what if they granted it on August 2, it will logically end on September 2 if we were to be give a one-month visa.  Our departure dates were not until mid-September.  


As we gathered our requirements back for safekeeping, I thought out loud and said to Marx on our way out, "Isn't that the role of our plane tickets, to determine the beginning of validity of our visas?".


Well, we were in no position to argue so we quietly acknowledged his instructions.  This is only based on our story and in no way will determine other travelers' would-be experience. On September 2, we went back and successfully filed our visa application.

Tuesday, September 24

Smyle Inn :-)

Backpackers and budget-travelers alike are always on the lookout for cheap but nice places to stay in every destination they will travel to. After spending a whole day exploring a vibrant city such as New Delhi, tired wanderers are looking forward to cap their memorable day either lounging in their comfy beds or sipping their favorite drinks before calling it a night.
Smyle Inn hotel entrance

Wednesday, September 18

Si Christina and Me

When visiting San Pablo City, Laguna, strolling by Sampaloc lake is one of those activities which seems to stop time. Jogging early, just when the sun kisses the morning mist is also a good way to start the day.  I would sometimes just do this using flip flops. But then, I came to know that a good pair of shoes, like those basketball shoes from Zalora, would be beneficial to an aspiring runners' itchy feet just (ahem) like me. 

After spending time frolicking around the biggest lake in San Pablo, you may consider having your merienda at this cozy restaurant just a few steps away from San Pablo City Cathedral.  A city-tour can be tiring and Si Christina offers a variety of food choices which are reasonably priced.  An early evening coffee break is much more cozier and relaxing.



Tuesday, September 10

Wander Photo: Rappelling

Ah....the thrill of this activity!  This was taken more than five years ago during my first hike, climbing Mt. Romelo of Famy, Laguna in a stormy weekend at the wee hours of the morning.  I tell you, it was not an easy task for then first-timers like me!

After almost five hours of traversing muddy treks, we finally reached the top, rested and capped the day with this stomach-turning activity.

  I was the second to the last to rapel the 15-storey high Mt. Buruwisan Falls.  

Go back with me up to the glorious mountains!  My very first time documented here.

Wednesday, September 4

SEAIR International Re-launches Flights to Caticlan


Great news for Boracay beach lovers! SEAIR International (SEAIR) announces the re-launch of your favourite flights to Boracay. 
            SEAIR's Manila - Caticlan flights will feature an innovative premium boutique service offering a unique passenger experience.
            The brand that pioneered commercial flights to Boracay in 2005, is back to offer premium services with fast and stress-free travel to the island using state-of-the-art Dornier 328 aircraft.
            SEAIR passengers will enjoy exclusive lounge access at the Manila Domestic Airport Terminal 4, where services such as VIP concierge check-in, superior baggage handling, snack and beverage services are complimentary.
            “We are delighted to re-launch our Boracay flights, with premium travel services to be enjoyed exclusively by SEAIR passengers. This is just a first step towards SEAIR’s goal to provide luxurious, comfortable and value for money travel to Boracay” said SEAIR’s Mr. Patrick Tan.
            SEAIR uses the Dornier 328 aircraft on its Manila- Caticlan flights. It is the fastest, most advanced jet-prop, and the latest in a long line of technologically-innovative aircraft manufactured by Germany-based Dornier. The aircraft enables SEAIR to offer the fastest flights from Manila to Caticlan at just 35 minutes. It has a large seat pitch with a feel of a big jet and is designed with more interior volume per passenger than the 100+ seater Boeing 737. Dornier 328s are capable to perform Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) and is ideal for the small runway of Caticlan.

            To find out more about the new and exciting services, we invite you to visit Muranglipad.com at the Philippine Travel Mart, Booth No. 1200 Hall 1 SMX Convention Center, Pasay City on September 06 to 08 from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily. For Boracay flight reservations, visit www.flyseair.com or call 849-0100. Please like the SEAIR Facebook fan page at www.facebook/flyseair for updates on promotions and new routes.


Tuesday, August 27

Sarao Motors Inc.

More than a decade ago I heard in the news that Sarao Motors Inc. were closing its doors to the automotive industry.  I mulled at this event since I was used to seeing colorful jeepneys plying the whole of the metropolis, intrigued by the many robotic horses crowding its hood and by the many flags adorning its front and rear.  An invite from a friend had me a bit surprised that this family-owned business did not actually rest for good.  They are thriving in the heart of Las Piñas City.  After our historic visit to the famous Bamboo Organ, we dropped by at Sarao Motors which was just one jeepney ride away.


Tuesday, August 20

The Force Within

The heavens were threatening to cry. The skies were overcast.   The large tree at the left of the churchyard overshadowed the grand old place of prayer.  Majestic and mystic just like every one I have visited,  St. Joseph Parish Church is home to Las Pinas City's Bamboo Organ.

A former nunnery sits adjacent to the church. Excited, I quickly took shots with my underwater camera while silently cursing myself for not bringing my DSLR.  My mind was elsewhere earlier that day. It was traveling across valleys and plains and places in faraway lands. It did not occur to me that we were to visit a church, and an antique one for that matter. 

The moment we stepped off our vehicle coming from friend Claire's early birthday party, I immediately prayed that it will not rain. I got anxious to start our museum tour upon seeing those old structures!  Old buildings are my weakness. My imagination goes wild as I picture the life of the past, of the those patient builders who helped shaped the tale of this historical place.

Saturday, August 17

Press Release: Murang Lipad


Murang Lipad offers travel assistance to passengers affected by flight cancellations

Here’s great news for travelers! Murang Lipad, a division of Triplestar Travel & Tours, announced that it is offering flight reservation assistance to passengers affected by flight cancellations. It services ticket reservation of all major carriers in the Philippines, particularly Tiger Air, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Air Asia and Jetstar.

            To avail of specialized travel assistance, passengers may call the reservations hotline at 849-0100. They may also call Murang Lipad for free by visiting www.muranglipad.com and clicking the WebTalk Button. Office hours are extended from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily to accommodate travel needs of affected passengers.

            Triplestar has 11 ticketing offices nationwide, particularly in Makati, Manila Domestic Airport, Quezon City, SM Clark, Cebu City, Cebu International Airport, Davao City, Davao International Airport, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban and Bacolod. All are strategically located to cater to passengers’ immediate travel requirements.

Tuesday, August 13

Las Piñas City's Bamboo Organ

It all started in the building of a church made from endemic bamboo.  St. Joseph Parish Church of Las Piñas City houses the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ. Father Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen of Pampanga, him and the locals started building the church in the late 1700s using adobe rocks.  

A sponsored visit with my travel blogger friends made the trip worthwhile.  Gani, our knowledgeable guide took us back in time as he told the tale of the world-famous Bamboo Organ.

The Bamboo Organ Foundation, Inc.
P. Diego Cera Avenue, Brgy. Daniel Fajardo, Las Piñas City, Philippines 1744
www.bambooorgan.org

Tuesday, August 6

Coffee Break by the Lake at Cafe Lago

A small rustic cafe situated in a quiet location facing Sampaloc Lake, Cafe Lago is cozier and lovelier in the evenings.  However, due to schedule conflicts, I decided to visit the cafe in the morning where fewer customers are expected.


Cafe Lago facade

The courtyard
The cafe, which is also part of the famed Viaje del Sol, is very charming and unassuming. It has a small courtyard suited for intimate gatherings. Lush foliage surrounds the cafe inside and out.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The interiors are beautifully painted




Sampaloc Lake framed by the cafe's large window

Other customers doing some photo shoot
Having a break by the lake is really soothing.  A combination of fresh air and a relaxed atmosphere will definitely calm your nerves.  You don't need to order expensive meals!  An expensive (for me) 45-peso cup of coffee will do. 
Cafe Lago Menu
How to get here

From Cubao/Pasay/Manila, ride buses plying for the Lucena/Bicol route.  Ask the conductor to drop off you off at the fork in San Pablo going to the town proper.  Ride a jeepney with signage San Pablo at Php 8 each. From the fork or from the town proper itself, you can hire a trike going to Tahanan Ni Aling Meding.  You can also walk from here going towards  Sampaloc Lake.  Facing Sampaloc Lake, walk to your left and you will find Cafe Lago several lots before Tahanan Ni Aling Meding.



More Photos Here

Wednesday, July 24

Lucy and Elsie Cuisine

I have been frequenting the southern towns of Laguna ever since I called this province home almost a decade ago.  I have went as far as Liliw and even dropped by at Majayjay. Nagcarlan, the neighboring town,also boasts of several tourist spots worth mentioning. However, I have discovered a nice dining place in the lesser known town of Rizal.