Tuesday, February 25

Kolkata and Calcutta

Mother Teresa's Tomb in Kolkata, India

Kolkatta was the last leg of our Indian odyssey.  It was also one of the fastest day we had in India.  It seemed that when we woke up in our last morning here, the hours were going by so quick that we did not have much time to savor the places we were supposed to visit.  Either they were close or it was just bad timing.

Nevertheless, the day was not wasted for we were able to see where Mother Theresa was laid to rest.  For experience, we rode in a human-drawn tuktuk for 50 INR.  Once we started moving, I was quickly reminded of our local version of pedicab.  However, the former was more humane as it was like riding a sidecar.  The latter gave off a unique experience but I am not recommending it as a means of living.  

Saturday, February 22

Sample Baler 3D/2N Itinerary

Since summer is just a few weeks away, some of you may be wanting to spend time frolicking in the waves and finally have the guts to learn how to surf!

Baler is more than waves though.  It is the perfect destination for nature lovers, historical buffs and extreme sports adventurers!  I really had a great time during my 2012 stay here.  

Below is a sample itinerary for a 3D/2N stay in one of my favorite places in Luzon.  :-)

Yep! That is me! :-D

DAY 1 

2:00 AM    ETD Manila (Cubao)
9:00 AM    ETA Baler, Aurora
10:00 AM  Check-in/ Rest
12:00 PM  Lunch 
1:30 PM    Trike Tour: Diguisit Beach | Ermita Hill | Balete Park | Caunayan Falls etc.
5:00 PM    Beach-bumming, sunset-viewing
6:00 PM    Dinner
7:00 PM    Socials
10:00 PM   Lights off


7:00 AM   Lights on
8:00 AM   Breakfast
9:00 AM   Surfing lessons in Sabang Beach
12:00 PM  Lunch
1:00 PM    Rest
2:30 PM    Ditumabo Falls (Baler to San Luis)
5:00 PM    Beach-bumming, sunset-viewing
6:00  PM   Dinner
7:00 PM    Socials
10:00 PM  Lights off


5:30 AM   Lights on | Sunrise-viewing | Beach-bumming
7:30 AM   Breakfast
9:00 AM   Tour:  Museum | Aurora Quezon's Ancestral Home | Baler Church | Baler Town Hall etc
11:00 AM  Lunch
12:00 PM  Check-out
1:00 PM   ETD for Manila

Approximate travel time from Manila to Baler is around six hours.  Best to leave at dawn to maximize the rest of your first day.  

Bus options:  Genesis Bus Lines, New York St., Cubao, QC

Where we stayed:   Jam Jen's Lodge, Bahia I, Baler, Aurora
09215983588, 09162001731 look for Ate Marivic/Kuya Marlon.  Rates were at P600 for 2 persons during my visit.  Fan room with private toilet & bath.  Air-conditioned rooms are also offered. Location is not beach front but has a direct access to Sabang Beach.  You may contact to them to verify their updated rates.

Rates:  P800 - 2 pax, no heater/shower;  P1000 - 2 pax, with heater/shower;  P1400 - 2 pax, aircon, tv;  P1500 - 2 pax, aircon, tv, hot & cold shower;  P4000 - 6 pax, aircon, tv, hot & cold shower

Getting around:      Tricycles are the main mode of transportation in Baler.  If hiring one for your trike tour, make sure to look for drivers who has the Transport Sector as Tourism Front runners ID.  Rates may start at around P 800 per trike or depending on your haggling skills

Where we ate:        At local carinderias near the town hall: cheap and home-cooked
Aaliyah Surf Camp & Resort:  Located on Sabang Beach. Offers surfing lessons and   has a restaurant

Tuesday, February 18

Varanasi's Traditions

The dirtiest. The most chaotic. The hottest. The most populous.  These are just some of the things I have thought the moment we stepped our feet on Varanasi.   Varanasi, or Benares is an old city situated in the banks of the Ganges River.  It is one of the holiest sites in Hinduism.  This river, although very polluted, is considered sacred by many.

We arrived at exactly noon time and was greeted by the chaotic streets of the bustling city.  We rode on a tuktuk which dropped us off at the main street leading to the Dasaswamedh Ghat.   We were a bit lost.  Marx asked for directions where our hostel was.  The inn where we stayed was located in the end of Varanasi's maze of streets with the godly view of the Ganges River.  
People-watching along the ghats is a recommended activity
After settling in our room and after finally having a normal meal after 24 hours,  my friend and I rested for a few hours and didn't decide to get lost in the narrow, smelly streets of the city until late that afternoon.  

People from all walks of life gather at  Dashashwamedh Ghat
The Dashashwamedh Ghat is the busiest and maybe the oldest ghat in all of Varanasi. Temples surround the ghat and this is where the Evening Aarti Ceremony takes place. We took the liberty of hanging out here and just observed how Indians in this part of the country live. The Ganges, though considered holy, is also considered as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. I saw men and women bathe in the river, wash their clothes, collect water, animals swimming and a man drinking water directly from the river. Yes, they do drink water from the Ganges.  
Video: Evening Aarti Ceremony

The holy Ganges River
To fully understand the Hindi culture, we gave Manikarnika Ghat (great cremation ground) an unintended visit. This is the main site for Hindu cremation in the city, and I believe all over India. It was quite a walk from where we were coming since. The streets we trailed in to were all crooked, noisy, and busy. Cows were bleating everywhere as they try to block the people's path, trying to get their share of the narrow pathway. After countless right and left turns, we finally reached the famed ghat and we were able to witness the washing and burning of those who passed away.

The guide who greeted us, explained briefly what we were seeing.  Unfortunately picture-taking is not allowed unless you pay for an extra fee.  According to him, children ten years of age and below and pregnant women are buried directly in the Ganges River and not burned along the ghat as what tradition dictates. Why? Because children are said to be innocent and pure of spirit so no need for them be washed and burned before ascending into the heavens. 

Meanwhile, women are also not allowed to carry the bodies of the dead and to witness the rites because women are emotional, women cry.  Crying is not allowed since, he said, only happiness should be witnessed since the departed will go to heaven.  
 Evening Aarti Ceremony  

The next activity we were able to see was the long and colorful Evening Aarti Ceremony.  According to wikipedia, when aarti is performed, the performer faces the deity of God (or divine element, e.g. Ganges river) and concentrates on the form of God by looking into the eyes of the deity (it is said that eyes are the windows to the soul) to get immersed. The flame of the aarti illuminates the various parts of the deity so that the performer and onlookers may better see and concentrate on the form. Aarti is waved in circular fashion, in clockwise manner around the deity. After every circle (or second or third circle), when Aarti has reached the bottom (6–8 o' clock position), the performer waves it backwards while remaining in the bottom (4–6 o' clock position) and then continues waving it in clockwise fashion. The idea here is that aarti represents our daily activities, which revolves around God, a center of our life. Looking at God while performing aarti reminds the performer (and the attendees of the aarti) to keep God at the center of all activities and reinforces the understanding that routine worldly activities are secondary in importance. This understanding would give the believers strength to withstand the unexpected grief and keeps them humble and remindful of God during happy moments. Apart from worldly activities aarti also represents one's self - thus, aarti signifies that one is peripheral to Godhead or divinity. This would keep one's ego down and help one remain humble in spite of high social and economic rank. A third commonly held understanding of the ritual is that aarti serves as a reminder to stay vigilant so that the forces of material pleasures and desires cannot overcome the individual. Just as the lighted wick provides light and chases away darkness, the vigilance of an individual can keep away the influence of the material world.

Our cabin-mates: Indian children bound for Varanasi
Our brief stay in Varanasi made me understand more the culture and tradition of the people living in this side of the country.  Colorful and wonderful.  It was a great culmination of our voyage in the heart of India. 


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  The Ghost of Goa
Part 9   Magnificent Mumbai
Part 10 What to Wear in India for Women Travelers
Part 11 Romantic Udaipur
Part 12 Israel, Morocco and the Fort of Chittorgarh
Part 13 Pondering in the Pink City
Part 14 New Delhi Baby!
Part 15 The Red Fort
Part 16 Whirling Emotions
Part 17 You are on it!
Part 18 Kolkata and Calcutta
Part 19 Off to Pattaya!
Part 20 India Trip at a Glance
Part 21 India Trip Backpacking Expenses

Saturday, February 15

Dear Future Partner

It is the month of hearts once again.  And this is the very first that I am not officially with someone.  Though my last had not ended the way I had hoped it would be. Whenever I think about that, somehow there is a feeling of regret (just a tiny itsy bitsy feeling) of not ending it up earlier than I should have been.

Years passed and I somehow still feel empty.  I am looking forward to being young and in love once again.  Yes, love can do that to you.  Being young at heart. I yearn to feel that magical feeling of falling in love with you once more.  

I grew up watching fairy tales and Disney movies. I loved reading princess stories and about prince charming.  Of course, in my later years I would come to know that the ideal prince charming is rare to come by.  Well, except Prince William who is my ultimate crush since time immemorial. :-)

I know the reality of life will not always give you what you are looking for. Oftentimes, it gives you someone whom you least expect.  Sometimes that person is the total opposite of your idea of the ideal man.  I even find myself laughing at times at these thoughts.  

You know my future partner?  I have been waiting for you all my life.  No one knows, not even the great One above, if I will still meet you.  Or if I have already met you.  Only time can tell.  But as early as now, I would like you to know that I am so much looking forward to that day.  When I feel once more that bolt of lightning.  Of sharing that one touch with you, and then knowing later on how it feels so perfect, so right. Of just being with you.  Of feeling the whirlwind of emotions. Of feeling the first blush of falling in love. And of course, of finally sharing our first sweet kiss, under the moonlight, at the beach, at night.

I am just here to care for you. I know that I am a great girl and that it is not hard for someone to love me and fall in love with me.  It's just that I have so much love to give now.  Shall I wait? Of course I will.  I have always waited.  What's another lifetime of waiting?

I Love You!


Pondering Paodaolei

Tuesday, February 11

Whirling Emotions

Prince Charming. Queens. Wicked Mothers.  Castles and rolling valleys. Yes, they are a bunch of characters and settings of fairy tales we usually tell to little children.

Taj Mahal, for me, is like a fairy tale. Only real. Much better. More alive in my memory.

Friday, February 7

It Just Gets Better After That


We cannot control when we fall in love.

Much less to whom we fall in love with.

Sometimes, you stand amaze as you stare at a man or at a woman who is the complete opposite of the ideals etched in your brain.

Losing yourself.  Hopeless romantics.  In one way or another, we all bow down to the greatest emotion that ever existed.  Is it even an emotion? Or is it the purest form of energy that binds us all. 

Tuesday, February 4

The Red Fort

By this time, my stomach is doing cartwheels and somersaults and every stunt I could think of.  I could no longer hide that I was unwell but I still have to go through the day.  We had the busiest two days after honeymooning with New Delhi.  We arrived past noon in Agra, hungry and tired.  

After having lunch, Marx and I was offered an arranged tour by our host but we find it expensive.  We politely declined and as planned, explored Agra on our own.  It was raining by the time of our arrival but it went away in the late afternoon.  There should have been other places on our list but our wanting to rest early made us decide to just visit the more important places, the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal Complex.

The Red Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Saturday, February 1

Cheap Accommodation in Tingloy Island

Looking for a cheap place to stay in Tingloy Island?  You may stay at Councilor Florencio Mandanas rooms at only P 400 for two. But don't expect much!  Just basic accommodation with common toilet & bath.

Masasa Beach, Tingloy Island

Room good for two. Girly stuff huh! :-)

credits to Bryan Villarin

Contact number:  63927.718.2216

Enjoy! :-)

El Nido Island Hopping Tour Rates

Late last year, the Island Hopping Tour Rates have significantly increased (around P 500). Combination tours are also no longer allowed.  Sad news for those who have not yet gone to El Nido.  But nonetheless, the price will still be worth it.  I did combination Tour A & C during my visit to El Nido last year.  I would say if I had more time and budget, I will take all the tours to fully explore the beauty of El Nido.  

Updated Standard Rates: El Nido Island Hopping Tours*
Tour A - 1,200 Pesos/person
Tour B - 1,300 Pesos/person
Tour C - 1,400 Pesos/person
Tour D - 1,200 Pesos/person

* Group/Sharing Tour basis.
* Inclusive of free lunch, snorkeling gear, life vest and guides (Northern Hope Inn)
* Quotation does not include 200 Pesos/person Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF) which is good for up to 10 days in El Nido.
* No more combination tours