Monday, December 28

Finally, Siem Reap

Siem Reap was the other major country in our two-week Indochina trip which we really looked forward to in visiting. Not having been to famous Angkor Wat before, I was often advised by friends who have been there that I should wear comfortable clothing as it was hot and humid.


East Gate


We visited three temples one morning. The world-famous Angkor Wat, the Ta Prohm, known for its appearance in the movie Tomb Raider, and Bayon Temple.

Angkor Wat


That famous Angkor Wat sunrise

The details were intricately done. Amazing.




Ta Phrom


And that famous tree from Tomb Raider!

Bayon Temple


Bayon Temple is more admirable from a distance

We were also supposed to visit Bantay Srei but the crazy weather did not permit. Nevertheless, we still had a nice time in Siem Reap. 


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Other Parts In This Series:

Bagan Lodge:  A Grandiose Gateway to Bagan's Noble Past

A Delightful Stay in Hotel by Red Canal Mandalay 
Once Upon A Time in Soria Moria Boutique Hotel
Tranquility and Nostaglia Equals Pavillon d'Orient 

A Surprise Malaysia Visit
Burma: An Untouched Gem 
Yangon is Yielding
On the Way to Bagan
Bagan is Beautiful
Biking in Bagan
Hello Mandalay!
Pretty in Pai
Overland Border Crossing:  Bangkok to Siem Reap
Finally, Siem Reap
Saigon aka HCMC
Indochina Trip Itinerary and Expenses 

Monday, December 21

Tranquility and Nostaglia Equals Pavillon d'Orient

One look at Pavillon d'Orient photos online convinced me that we will have a pleasant and relaxing stay in Siem Reap.

And as an agreement to what I have thought, this was what greeted us upon our arrival.





Monday, December 14

Overland Border Crossing: Bangkok to Siem Reap

I think it was a wise decision to go to Siem Reap from Bangkok over land. I was unable to try out the trains of Myanmar so I really hoped to have at least one train ride in our two-week journey. And going back to Thailand gave me that opportunity.

It was also the cheapest. We only paid THB 48 or Php 68 per person for an ordinary ticket from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet, the station nearest to Poipet (Cambodia) border. It was supposed to be only for six hours but our trip lasted closer to seven. I thought the train was a bit slow. But then again, I did not have a prior train ride to really compare it to.


Monday, December 7

Pretty in Pai

Pai pretty much surprised me. Though I was curious as to what to really see here, I did not expect to truly like our one night sojourn in this tranquil place. 

Located in the northern province of Mae Hong Son, three hours from Chiang Mai, Thailand, Pai is a hilly town surrounded by nothing but mountains and lush greens. 




From Ben's Guesthouse where we spent the night before in Chiang Mai, we hired a tuktuk to take us to Arcade Bus Terminal for THB 100.  We secured our van tickets at THB 150 each, leaving for 8:30 AM.

Thursday, December 3

The Legend Behind Living With Nature Blog


Me and lolo during Christmas 2013

My beloved grandfather passed away unexpectedly last January. I miss him terribly. Once I dreamed about him and I actually heard him speak. I regret that I did not get to visit him more often in his twilight years. But I have very fond memories of my childhood because of him.

He was the typical grandfather, doting and loving towards his grandchildren. He was an intelligent man too. Caring and family-oriented. He speaks fluent Spanish, English and Ilokano. And best of all, he was a man of God.

My grandfather was a pastor in the church I grew up in. Sundays would be spent worshipping our Creator while summer vacations were filled with visits to PhilSite and Luneta Park.

He died at the ripe age of 76. The upcoming Christmas will be the first Christmas without him. It will be sad but all I can do is reminisce our great times together. 

Last November 21, I got acquainted with someone whom I can see my grandfather in. He won the best blog in the Nature & Environment category in the recently concluded Bloggys 2015 event. 

I got curious since he was an elderly who knew how to blog. And won an award at that! It was encouraging and inspiring for younger people like me. But truth to be told, he greatly reminded me of my dear grandfather who I will never get to see anymore in a long, long time.

When me and my friends saw him taking pictures by the giant Christmas tree, I knew I would like to have my photo taken with him too. I found the courage and walked up to him and said, 'Can I have a picture with you sir?' I put my arm around his waist and whispered to him that he reminded me of my grandfather. It was enough to fight back the tears.


The man behind Living with Nature

I did my research and found out his name is Dr. Aberico V. Rotor or Abe for short. Well the good man is not just a blogger but behind him is a colorful history of personal achievements one could only be proud of.

His blog description states:
Award-winning author of "The Living with Nature Handbook" (Gintong Aklat Award 2003) and "Living with Nature in Our Times" (National Book Award 2008); professor, University of Santo Tomas; School-on-Air instructor, (Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid, winner of Gawad Oscar Florendo for Development Communication) DZRB 738 KHzAM Band, 8 to 9 o'clock evening, Monday to Friday.); Outstanding Teacher in the Philippines (Commission on Higher Education - CHED 2002); Filipino Scientist (DOST-Batong Balani); former Director, National Food Authority; and Consultant on food and agriculture, Senate of the Philippines.

It was a starstruck moment for me I guess. And I hope I will meet Dr. Rotor again and ask him tales of the past that only people his age can tell with a touch of regality and authority.

Congratulations sir! 

Wednesday, November 25

Indochina Trip Itinerary and Expenses

Planning my Indochina trip was no easy task.  From booking our tickets to shopping for hotels, I considered many factors when I created my itinerary. These include budget, wants and likes, my travel buddy's interests and so on.

This trip was nine months in the making. So dear readers, I am sharing to you the breakdown of expenses I took note of during our travel. 

I hope it would be helpful when you plan yours too.  As I always say, move forward, and never be still. :)

To view it, just click here.

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Other Parts In This Series:

Bagan Lodge:  A Grandiose Gateway to Bagan's Noble Past

A Delightful Stay in Hotel by Red Canal Mandalay 
Once Upon A Time in Soria Moria Boutique Hotel
Tranquility and Nostaglia Equals Pavillon d'Orient 

A Surprise Malaysia Visit
Burma: An Untouched Gem 
Yangon is Yielding
On the Way to Bagan
Bagan is Beautiful
Biking in Bagan
Hello Mandalay!
Pretty in Pai
Overland Border Crossing:  Bangkok to Siem Reap
Finally, Siem Reap
Saigon aka HCMC
Indochina Trip Itinerary and Expenses 

Monday, November 23

Hello Mandalay!

We only had one night to spend in Mandalay. Me and my friend did not have much idea what this city has to offer. But of course we did our research before embarking on our five-day journey to this beautiful country called Myanmar and had U-Bein Bridge and Mandalay Hill on top of our bucket list.

Sadly, due to time constraints, we were unable to visit these two. We ended up just biking in the surrounding area. Gladly, our choice of accommodation, Hotel by Red Canal, assisted us with our inquiries without any hesitations and so our initial apprehension to explore the unknown disappeared.


Maha Atulawaiyan Kyaungdawgyi

Monday, November 16

A Delightful Stay in Hotel by Red Canal Mandalay

I definitely did not make a wrong choice when I booked a stay at Hotel by the Red Canal Mandalay. Pictures of the hotel did not do justice. The place was elegant, cozy and a wee bit charming if I may add.



One can expect optimum privacy since the hotel is situated in one of the inner streets of busy Mandalay. We felt like stars upon our arrival - complete with a welcome sign and all. The cool drinks served to us was a great way to beat the heat because it was a rather humid morning. 

Friday, November 13

National Museum Free Admission

The National Museum recently announced that it will open its doors to all from November 17-21, 2015, coinciding with the annual APEC meeting.



The National Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM. 

Monday, November 9

Biking in Bagan

Biking is one of my favorite past times back home. I have also found a liking to biking in far-off places in my home country. When I planned for this trip, I made sure to include solo biking around Bagan, even just for a few hours.

I love biking in Bagan

I expected to love Bagan.  But I did not expect to fall head over heels in love. Our hotel was far from where Old Bagan is so I had to settle with biking near our place. I guess if I were alone, I have biked all day long. I would not care if it was sunny, humid, hot or dusty. I just know I needed to pedal on those deserted roads and admire the lonely pagodas on my own.

I did not have a map with me when I went off one afternoon towards the direction of the lovely pagoda I had glimpsed earlier.  Its golden stuppa was a shimmering gold against the fading afternoon sun.  I mentally calculated how many minutes it was from our hotel. I guessed it was a good 15-minute ride.  



After being honked on by cars passing by, I guided my slim bike at the other side of the road and found a bare fork. A tourist map was erected at the corner with arrows pointing to several pagodas I could explore.  I already know which way to go to when a kind gentleman approached me.  I already noticed him and another more sitting in the make-shift shade. I was guessing they were local law enforcement or something like that.  

He asked me where I wanted to go and I pointed to the name of the pagoda on the map.  After telling me which way to proceed, he looked at me and kindly asked, 'Only one?'  I said a curt yes, smiled and said my thanks. The sun was already low on the horizon and I did not want to bike without lights. It would be suicide.

_______  
Other Parts In This Series:

Bagan Lodge:  A Grandiose Gateway to Bagan's Noble Past 

A Delightful Stay in Hotel by Red Canal Mandalay 
Once Upon A Time in Soria Moria Boutique Hotel
Tranquility and Nostaglia Equals Pavillon d'Orient 

A Surprise Malaysia Visit
Burma: An Untouched Gem 
Yangon is Yielding
On the Way to Bagan
Bagan is Beautiful
Biking in Bagan
Hello Mandalay!
Pretty in Pai
Overland Border Crossing:  Bangkok to Siem Reap
Finally, Siem Reap
Saigon aka HCMC
Indochina Trip Itinerary and Expenses


Friday, November 6

Bloggys 2015 Gala Night

Bloggys 2015 is here and will be happening on November 21, 2015 at SMX Convention Center, SM Aura, Taguig City.

Bloggys is a prestigious award-giving body aiming to recognize the best in the world of Philippine blogging.

If you have time, you may drop by the area and get the chance to meet awesome bloggers and get the chance to make new friends.

It has been great being one of the nominees! Being recognized is already an award for me.

See you there! :)



Monday, November 2

Bagan is Beautiful

What can I say about Bagan?  Simple. Bagan is beautiful. Though I had only stayed for a full two days here, and was unable to witness the famous Bagan sunrise and sunset due to cloudy weather, seeing the pagodas were more than enough to convince me to visit this place one more time.

My friend Chie in Bagan

How I long to try riding one of these!

We opted to take our hotel's offer for a car tour for half day for USD 20. I had imagined doing the tour in the old fashioned way via horse cart or ox cart but it just did not happen. I regret it a bit but also due to lack of funds I could not do it out of my own pocket. Really, a return to Bagan is a must!

Pagodas as far as my eyes can see :)


Bagan Lodge's kind staff assisted us with what our inquiries. They gave us a map on which temples to prioritize given with our limited time. 

We visited several pagodas namely Ananda Phaya, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Mahabodi Paya, She San Daw Pagoda and several others.

Wednesday, October 28

On the Way to Bagan

Since only a handful of Filipino travelers have explored Myanmar, we doubly searched how we will navigate from Yangon to Bagan by land.  I read a few blogs and also consulted several friends who have already been there to get the right directions.

We reserved our bus tickets at one of the booking agencies located in Aung San Stadium which was in front of Yangon Railway Station. We checked several shops to compare prices and found that their average price was at MMK 15500 or an estimate of PHP 550. The bus was air-conditioned and provided a bottle of water. For an 8-hour ride at that cheap fare, it wasn't so bad. 

Booking agencies are abound at the exterior of Bogyoke Aung San Stadium

Friday, October 23

Once Upon a Time in Soria Moria Boutique Hotel

We had a short and simple stay at Soria Moria Boutique Hotel. Located in a quiet corner of Wat Bo road, we were quietly welcomed on a misty night last September.


The room we stayed in was spacious, complete with the usual amenities a tired traveler would find joy in. A big cable TV, a bathroom with a tub, complimentary bottled water and coffee. And a nicely set king bed.

Monday, October 19

Yangon is Yielding

Our original plan was to go straight to Yangon from Manila via Kuala Lumpur. We planned to just stay at the airport for six hours while waiting for our onward flight. However, our trip was shortened by another day. I got a bit disappointed but quickly let go of this feeling as we had a full two weeks to explore some major cities of South East Asia as opposed to the prior plan of nine days. 

Our plane landed in Yangon International Airport at exactly 8 AM. Since we needed to head on to Bagan that same night, my friend and I rested a bit and exploited the airport's modern amenities. We freshened up and changed clothes before going out into the city.

We planned (and even promised with our pinkie fingers) that this will be a true backpackers' trip. We will try out everything local, from food stuff to public transportation. And daring to do anything that may come across as eccentric, once-in-a-lifetime or cheap. Yes, we were that serious.  
Me and Chie at Yangon airport upon our arrival

Tuesday, October 13

Burma: An Untouched Gem

Myanmar, the Golden Kingdom.  Previously called Burma, this country is so pure from every aspect that one can not stop his curiosity in discovering its hidden beauty.

Closed off from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar has just recently welcomed visitors from all over the world.  

Like a newly-blossomed flower, its beauty is innate as it is raw, as fresh at it is historic, as promising as it is fulfilled.

I have stopped at three major Myanmar tourist destinations. A full day in Yangon. Two nights in Bagan and a night in Mandalay. Too short I confess. But it was more than enough to give my heart to this mystical country.

Yangon

Downtown Yangon complete with the old bus and buildings
  Bagan

Shwe San Daw Pagoda
Mandalay

Kuthodaw Pagoda
I so want to give Burma a second look. And a longer visit at that. I would like to visit the other less touristy towns and really mingle with its people. Wear longyi like the locals. Admire more pagodas. To explore unknown paths. Learn Burmese. Eat traditional food.

I just want to go back. Period.
____
Other Parts In This Series:

Bagan Lodge:  A Grandiose Gateway to Bagan's Noble Past

A Delightful Stay in Hotel by Red Canal Mandalay 
Once Upon A Time in Soria Moria Boutique Hotel
Tranquility and Nostaglia Equals Pavillon d'Orient 

A Surprise Malaysia Visit
Burma: An Untouched Gem 
Yangon is Yielding
On the Way to Bagan
Bagan is Beautiful
Biking in Bagan
Hello Mandalay!
Pretty in Pai
Overland Border Crossing:  Bangkok to Siem Reap
Finally, Siem Reap
Saigon aka HCMC
Indochina Trip Itinerary and Expenses

Thursday, October 8

A Surpise Malaysia Visit

Our plan was to visit Burma for at least a week.  However, that week ballooned into a full two weeks including other Southeast Asian cities. We were set to leave for Yangon from Kuala Lumpur on Sept 19.


Monday, October 5

Bagan Lodge: A Grandiose Gateway to Bagan's Noble Past

Bagan Lodge Resort and Spa sits at the edge of the plain where the more than 3000 pagodas are located.  It is best to reach the hotel by riding a cab from the bus terminal.

My friend and I headed to the hotel as soon as we arrived at past four in the morning.  Knowing that our check-in time was not until around noon, we kindly asked permission from the reception staff if we can just hang around the lobby until our room was ready.

To our delight, we were accommodated during that ungodly hour and were able to take a much-needed rest.  
Hotel Reception

Hotel Lobby and Bar

Wednesday, September 9

The Zippier Zambawood

Finally, after more than a year.  Me and my blogger friends were able to visit the Zippy Zambawood once more.


It was after the summer months and we took advantage of our 3D-2N visit to have a chance to bond and relax in one of the coolest resorts I have been to.  

Though not much has changed since, I'd say that the resort grounds is more organized, more serene and definitely more pleasing to the eyes. 

I definitely missed the pool!  Where taking selfies underwater is awesome because of the perfect lighting.  I did not forget my red mermaid tail of course.

The food, just like before, still tastes great.  From cooking, to presentation, eating was a wonder to our senses. We did a number of activities on our first day.  We graced the official launching of Zambawood Cafe, had several food-tasting events, a special barista session and a cooking demonstration hosted by none other than Julyan.  


Surfing was on our list of our activities but the waves had a vacation.  So we just spent our last day frolicking in the warm infinity pool.  

As of today, Zambawood boasts of the following:


• Zambawood Boutique Resort 
• Julyan's Pine Beach Farm 
• Zambawood Cafe (Art - Surf - Bar)
• Zambawood Shop - selling beachwear clothing, artisan accessories products and bottled food harvested from our farm
Mr. and Mrs. Keith Harrison, Julyan's main pillars of strength
Please know that Zambawood was born out of the great love of a mother for her child with special needs.  Ms. Rachel Harrison, Founder and Creative Director, aptly states:

Zambawood Resort is a social enterprise and turned one in July. We aim to delight you with excellent services and products in a calming, environmental friendly, five star boutique lifestyle atmosphere.  But that is not where it ends as we also have a vision to be internationally renown for our support of adults with autism and other disabilities (which we like to call "exceptional adults") in the work place.  Our corporate "mission" is simply to give "Fun & Purpose" in a sustainable way to adults with autism (and naturally also to our guests, staff and other stakeholders).  

Our business enables the "exceptional adults" to have activities and find greater meaning in their lives through our vocational and artisan training programmes.  As their skills and confidence increase, they are assured of meaningful life long work in the Zambawood family. The exceptional adults receive their training and master their skills through the help from our professional team. These include our service staff, farmers, chefs, hospitality/service trainers, artists, sports coaches and more - many of whom give their time without charge.  These wonderful members of our family make a massive contribution and give us much heart.

Julyan, together with Teacher Ricky and Mommy Rachel
proudly shows us his cooked Pinakbet!  

Julyan was the one who did all the preparation 
for this cooking presentation held at Julyan's Pine Beach Farm
And yes, Julyan is one good-looking young man. :D
Staying in Zambawood will not only create cherished memories.  As you explore its verdant surroundings, one could feel that this home, this resort or paradise, whatever you may call it, is thriving because of such love. 

And that is a great cause to support, isn't it?

The chic Zambawood store
 Zambawood proudly supports local artistry 
Zambawood now boasts of a trendier image.  But not to the point of being flashy. Zambawood still feels like home. Fresh, colorful in form. 

One fine afternoon by the West Philippine Sea
Cocktails and drinks were served by the ever-focused Zambawood staff
It was a good time for chill talks and endless tales


Definitely a Zippier Zambawood.


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Zambawood is on Facebook and on Instagram @Zambawood

Purok 1B, Barrio a Paz, San Narciso, Zambales

Singapore   +6597738976
Philippines  +639159914715 
Manila         +6324018776

Feel free to contact us by landline or mobile during business hours: 8AM-5PM Mon-Fri. Beyond hours, drop us an email and we'll get back to you promptly.

For reservations and inquires, you may contact the following persons:


Sid Grumo | PR and Markerting – sid@zambawood.com 
Ivy Gonzaga | Special Events – ivy@zambawood.com 
Ken Nuñez | Prices and Availability –ken@zambawood.com 

Ms. Rachel Harrison | Founder and Creative Director - rachel@zambawood.com

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Wednesday, September 2

A Rejuvenating Time at White Palace Spa

Visiting spas was not a leisurely option for me.  For some reason, I ignore these establishments as my idea of spas somehow relate to shady activities. I think that is because of the negative news I hear in the past.

However, that all changed when I had my first 'pampering experience' at White Palace Spa. I did not realize how fun and relaxing it could be until I had my first full body massage, foot spa and foot reflex all in one sitting.
The newest branch of White Palace Spa in Parañaque

Tuesday, August 25

Five Reasons Why You Should Not Ignore Sta. Rosa, Laguna

Me and my family have adopted this city as our hometown for more than a decade now. Sadly, a few years back, when Nuvali was still virtually unheard of and Enchanted Kingdom was the most famous two-word phrase anyone can think in relation to Santa Rosa, no one knows her little secrets yet.


1.  Fresh Air

Before Nuvali and numerous subdivisions sprouted like mushrooms in the higher terrain of the city, acres and acres of un-utilized land can be appreciated.  Fifteen years ago, drag-racing is popular along the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay highway.  Yes, that was how scarcely populated this part of Santa Rosa once was.

Santa Rosa still enjoys the cool breeze coming from Tagaytay highlands specially during Christmas season. I am glad that most of the real estate developers did a great job of incorporating the communities into Mother Nature and not vice versa.  Families who decided to live here can still enjoy the comfort of modern life in the midst of a natural setting.