Indochina: Seven kilos of happiness Part 4

Day 5: Thursday

We woke up at a laid back town of Phuket. The stars were still evidently shining at 8am. The only thing left behind was the sound of old songs usually played on Sundays. We walked for food until we reached Phuket Walking Street Market. Everyone seemed to have long night I guessed, but the good thing was, we found a place to eat and buy groceries.

We arranged for tuktuk transfer to Rassada Pier along with the round-trip ferry ride and Phuket City Tour at the hotel. At 11am, we left our baggage and brought only what we need for a night on Phi Phi Island.

We arrived on island together with tourists. Unlikely to Boracay, the island is full of Westerns and less Asians to be found. Our hotel is just a few steps from Tonsai Pier.

Our lunch came late. Few hours, we started walking up to Phi Phi Viewpoint. It was too far from what I imagined on a twenty minute walk. It was way longer than that. We reached the top, yet the sun had already shown his best performance. We were late.

Scared  af, we risked walking in the dark back to hotel. Too tired to party, as if I would, we went to a cozy restau after we fixed ourselves for dinner and the Tita in me won to sleep. I’ll enjoy Slinky bar next time.

Day 6: Friday

Maya Bay was on the top of my list going to Thailand. It was the first thing I knew when I was a kid. After reading some online reviews, I lowered my expectations. I live in an archipelago. We were the first to arrive to the site as we started at 5am. The long-tail boat we hired sailed too fast, it would break from banging the water. Maya Bay didn’t amaze me nor my friends. In the end, we didnt pay THB400 fee to walk in the beach.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the snorkling. Few minutes, my friend was quickly moved away from our boat. We took long saving her from sudden waves.

The heat was already on when we went back to Phi Phi. We headed to Dalum Bay after the incident. The view here was stunning. Too bad we only had a night.

By afternoon, we ate while we sailed back to Phuket. We were transferred to our hotel and began our city tour, bringing our luggages with us.

Above is the Wat Chalong while the picture below is the Giant Buddha. A great view of Phuket was a package here. Currently, it’s still under construction.

We also visited both Kata Viewpoint and Promthep Cape.

Yet, we were too early for the sunset. After the tour, we stopped at souvenir shop and went straight to Phuket Airport. We’re almost at the end of our Indochina trip.

Expenses shown below for reference.

phuket

Indochina: Seven kilos of happiness Part 3

Day 3: Tuesday

From the moment we buckled up, bounded to Siem Reap, I had no memory of how the plane took off or how good was the flight between MY and REP. We arrived at a place that was once had the most powerful civilization in South East Asia.

The sun was there as if he was promising it would be a perfect day to live. We went through IO as usual. There was a transfer service located at the left side when you exit the airport. From there, we met our driver and took his service for two days.

Great things happened. The day was ours to be claimed. Advaya Residence made it possible by offering us an early check-in, room upgrades, food discounts, airport transfer, souvenirs and genuinely modest staffs. They liked us! We had the best stay here for few Pesos. Undeniably, I recommend this place to anyone who would want the same experience. The scent of their shampoo and gel were to die for.

The restaurants in Pub Street were relaxing and had appealing design. The ambiance really helped me to eat more than I could take in a usual meal. Fruit shakes were everywhere and totally appetizing for USD 1 only. We had a quick check on their market, bought some things and went back to hotel for a dip in the pool.

Few hours passed and we were picked by our driver for Sunset Tour. Downside, the sun won’t wait for us. We were in a hurry for minutes of Angkor Wat.

The good thing was that we won’t be queuing in line for the next day to buy a ticket.

We were dropped at the Pub Street and had our dinner. So far, I enjoyed their food. 

Tiniest part in me wanted to stay to have a fun night or might probably imagining it, but I ended up in bed. Well, because I am me.

Day 4: Wednesday

Still dark at 4:30 am, yet everyone was awake and ready. Our driver, Mr. Pol picked us up and we began our Angkor Wat Tour by waiting for the sunrise. I was in a reverie on a way back long before it was a famous attraction, there were ordinary locals who would sit here and be amazed of the beauty of the sunrise. We were plenty of souls waiting from twilight to be blessed by a big star. It’s one by far of moments, I enjoyed being in a crowd.

Angkor Wat alone is a truly amazing on its own location and architecture built many years ago with limited tools. All sites were picture perfect.

The sun had risen and I was with my cousin collecting more pictures and staying away as possible from the crowd.

There were areas unnoticed that were too damn perfect. If I had this in my backyard, I would be having most of my free time here. But of course with someone. I am not brave yet.

Our hotel offered complimentary breakfast. We didn’t have time to go back. There were food vendors and restaurants at the parking area, so one can have breakfast here. We then transferred to Angkor Thom.

The temple of too many faces is what they called Bayon Temple. Unfortunately, I enjoyed less because of H-U-M-A-N-S!

Like how life hits you hard, the heat was too much to bear. I was already panting when we reached Ta Prohm.

Few minutes, we went back to hotel, had our lunch and prepared for our flight to Phuket. We had a connecting trip to Bangkok. Sadly, eating at airport was unavoidable for our tight schedule. We reached Phuket at midnight. I already prearranged our transfer to hotel from Phuket SRC Travel.

cambodia

Indochina: Seven kilos of happiness Part 1

After uninspired weeks and busy days of scrolling facebook, I am now writing. This journey seemed to be full of lucky 7, from 7 excited travelers, 7 flights, 7 accommodations, to tempted but stick to only 7kgs of hand-carry baggage.

1po

flight

I probably ranked first in getting all-in lowest airfare for Php8420. As for accommodation, We could have stayed in hostels and spent less but we all deserve a decent sleep. Most hotels I picked are new and none of my companions complained. The seven nights cost us Php5820. It could have been lower due to “Book Now Pay Later” that I have not taken into account.

accomm

With so many drafts, I managed to create an itinerary for our trip. This is a must for me whenever I travel outside the country. By now, you realized I am from Philippines.

Night 1: Saturday

Starting on saturday night, we flew from Manila via Cebu Pacific and arrived the next day to Ho Chi Minh. We exchanged our USD to their VND just enough for a ride to hotel. Grab is available at Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. All airports have wifi. We booked two cars to hotel, had a smooth check-in and went outside for a quick Pho.

Few vietnamese speak English. We had a hard time communicating with them, so much that we were charged for effing tissue and tea that we felt fooled. We went back to hotel to sleep. By the way, the room is new, big and clean.

Day 1: Sunday
We woke up and had our free breakfast. Those two breakfast  at the hotel were the only decent breakfast we had on our entire trip. We went for a walk to change our money and booked a 7-seater GrabCar to Ben Duoc for Cu Chi Tunnel. Gladly, the driver offered his service to return us back to hotel for the same price. My brother enjoyed the experience much. We were the first to follow the tour guide as we went inside different tunnels. I only knew about Vietnam War through Forrest Gump. Their strategies to fight are impressive.

Going back to the city, we stopped at Ben Thanh Street Food Market for late lunch.  I enjoyed eating in Vietnam. They are leading in the search of best spring rolls, Indochina edition, though they were left behind in building structures and skyscrapers.

After a quick rest, we explored the city. The attractions are near the hotel, so we walked starting from Reunification Palace, Notre-Dam Basilica, Saigon City Hall, Saigon Square to Ben Thanh Night Market. Their assets are sticky rice, noodles, coffee and teas.

Ending the night, my friend and I looked for a coffee shop. The one we entered was exceptionally loud and full of bees. To our dismay, we decided to leave and drink at the hotel instead. The next morning, we’re ready to fly.

vietnam

 

Indochina: Seven kilos of happiness Part 2

Day 2: Monday

We had a layover to Malaysia for less than 24 hours before we hit Cambodia. There’s a wifi at the airport but my Grab app seemed not working by the time I needed it. I  also had a wrong decision taking Star Shuttle to hotel. We wasted two hours.

Still my option, I chose same hotel I booked the first time I was here. They changed the name and renovated their rooms. Location and price are great deals. The receptionist is a Filipina who was thoughtful not to ask for a deposit.

We went out to tour the city. Too bad for my friends, they wont be seeing Batu Caves. We took a train from Bukit Bintang and started walking from Masid Jamek Station.

The intricate designs of both Jamek Mosque and Sultan Abdul Samad I truly adore wont allow us to see what’s inside. I imagined myself walking alone and wasting my time here, but that didn’t happen.

I found it unsual that there were less tourists. Probably, we’re just a bit late. Few steps, we arrived at Kuala Lumpur City Gallery.

Offline google map helped us a lot. In times we’re lost, this is our guide. I slayed and survived DIY trips with this. We had our dinner outside the Central Market building. Certainly, I am not a fan of their food.

Instead of going back to hotel, we went straight from Pasar Seni Station to KLCC Station. Still standing is the once tallest building. I initially knew the famous building from Catherine Zeta-Jone’s movie “Entrapment”.  I have long forgotten the story but I still have photographic memory of her at Petronas Towers. A thick crowd was waiting at us. 

We’re all too tired and walking was the least choice we had, or at least for them. I have a long endurance for walking except for hiking. Luckily, we get on the “Go KL Bus” for free and stopped at Pavillion, where in a few seconds, we could crawl to our hotel. Since I was on a 7kg challenge, I gathered and brought all my dirty clothes to my sister who was in here for two weeks for work visit.

The bed at our hotel was inviting but we had no time for it. Few minutes later, we booked a Grab Car to KLIA2. 

malaysia

 

Indochina Trip: 7 flights and 7 kgs for Php 29,147

Way back two years, Indochina added up to my travel list. It’s by far among destinations that consumed me a lot of planning and research. The truth is I am scared. 

In the beginning, I intended to do it solo, but soon after I booked a return flight ticket, they knew I wasn’t bluffing. A brother, a cousin, a friend, a sister of a friend and the two friends of a sister of a friend joined me. We’re all seven.

Many travel agents offers these tours but knowing me, I stay away from such. I don’t want to adjust myself with tour guides. This is my time, my plan with my bitch tired face.

On Flight Booking and promos

Initially, I booked a promo ticket from Manila to Saigon and Bangkok to Manila from Cebu Pacific. After reading a lot of travel blogs of how tedious land travels are from Saigon to Siem Reap to Bangkok with some scams on cross borders, I’ve waited for Airasia promo to book for inter-countries. For what is available in between, I grabbed flight tickets without hesitation. After all, it’s cheap. Kuala Lumpur was not on my plan, but since it is Air Asia’s main hub connecting South East Asia, we had a lay-over going to Siem Reap, rather than sit on a twelve hour bus ride. There has to be a beach in my trip so Phuket was added. After all, it only costs me a thousand pesos roundtrip from Bangkok.

Another option which I used for a friend of a sister of my friend is the Air Asia Asean Pass. This allowed her to buy 10 credits for Php 7200 and use in our Indochina Trip. The total cost was Php 15192.22 including Cebu Pacific flight to Ho Chi Minh. Using Asean Pass is like buying an open ticket at least 14 days prior departure on a zero base fare plus taxes.

On choosing accommodations

Most of backpacking travellers stayed on hostels or used shared room. I have no plan doing the same. I am a picky traveller when it comes to hotel. Why choose hostel when you can pay the same on a three or four star hotels? My habit is that I always look for new, cheap and near to attractions. I like the smell of a new hotel. Agoda, Asiatravel and the new Traveloka are my friends. Some of these offer special discounts plus using BPIAT10 or BPIAT12 codes, 7% Citibank discounts and their mobile apps lessen the price. Gladly, I was satisfied on my stay. Seven nights cost us Php 5820. Advaya Residence was a great catch and the best among hotels we stayed in, from design, amenities, upgrades, services, transfers, food, oh I love the scent of their shampoos and body gels. This is as if we had given a five star service. The ambiance is for romance, making me want to come back with someone.

On deciding the routes
We started departing from Manila to Saigon to Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap to Bangkok to Phuket to Phi Phi to Phuket to Bangkok and retuning back to Manila. We had some regrets though but that’s all have been done. Seven flights with 7kgs handcarry and a ferry ride to Phi Phi. The flights cost me as low as Php 8420 in total. 

On Attractions
Vietnam has a lot to offer from south to north. It would be a separate trip ending at Hanoi. However, we have an ample time to check the country. I had a list and decided to visit whichever is applicable and open. We had Cu Chi Tunnel at Ben Duoc and City walk tours. On KL, we had few hours so we went on City Tours. We didn’t make it at Batu Caves. Obviously, Angkor Wat is the main course at Siem Reap. We visited from sunset until the next day’s afternoon. At Phi Phi, we hike for sunset at Phi Phi Viewpoint and had island hopping at Maya Bay. Before we flew to Bangkok, we got a group tour package for Php 3000 to view tour sites at Phuket. There’s no tour guide but only a driver, somewhat like we rented the van. The heat of bangkok plus some shopping blew up the plan. We weren’t able to visit temples. 

On Land Transportation
We used grab most of the time, whenever we can. Vietnam has 7 seaters while some allowed only up to four to six persons. The grab driver at Vietnam offered his service going back from Cu Chi Tunnel to Hotel. In KL, we saved few bucks by using Star Shuttle Bus with transfer to Bukit Bintang but we wasted two hours. We rented van at booth in Siem Reap’s airport for $10. We also availed his service to visit Angkor Wat at sunset for $15 and $35 from sunrise to midday before we flew to Bangkok for Phuket. I had also a pre-arrange pick-up from SRC Travel and Tours from airport to hotel in Phuket Town. We availed ferry to Phi Phi, transfers, phuket city tour and drop off to Airport from the hotel. At Bangkok, we’re too tired to use train, instead we asked hotel to drop us off to airport. We were charged THB 700.

On Changing Money
I changed my money before my trip. I went to Sanrys and got Php 11.15 for MYR 1, Php 1.5 for THB 1 and Php 50.7 for $1. We changed small bills at the airport in Vietnam for $1 at VND 22.7K and some near hotels. Cambodia accepts dollar. In the end, it is better to change in Manila for a few difference rather than wasting time searching for money changers.

On Packing

This time, I travelled light. Since I easily forget things, I saved my OOTD on my scrapbook. I brought 3 pairs for sleeping, 8 pairs touring the countries, 2 pairs of swimsuits, 3 pairs of socks and lots of undergarments. I washed some in hotels. I got one pair of shoes and slippers. I have one handbag, drybag and one suitcase. I rarely used my shampoos and soaps since most of the hotels have these. I brought aquapod but not often used. 

On companions
Not that I have a choice, we blended fair. No issues. Behaviors are expected, even the brother…

On Food

I seldom finish a cup of rice, much more on doing food review, but damn, I enjoyed eating on our trip. Vietnam tops the yummiest healthy food. Cambodia has $1 fruit shakes. The food in Indochina is inexpensive omitting foods at the aiports. Sadly, half of our trip, we took our meals at the airport. We had no options.

On Travel Tips

Some of tips were already mentioned here. My strategy is to book flights on promo, but of course, reading a lot of blogs, forums and groups prepared me for trip. I had a summary of everything before we flew including, flight details, name, birthdays, what to bring, directions, screenshots of hotels, attractions and google map directions. I also used offline locations of google map and gps. It helped me a lot. Most importantly, I had a budget summary. These are all stored in pdf. Also, we were one step ahead when we all web checked-in our six flights. The return trip was not since Cebu Pac allows few days before checking-in unlike Air Asia.

On summing up
It is not setting a foot in a foreign land that gives me fulfillment as some might have thought of why they travel, but somehow being free and connected made me want to travel more. While my friends are getting married, I travel. I met one while travelling who left his work to travel South-East Asia for months but I cannot do the same. I also cant give much of a great in-depth review on destination. Everyone has different points of view. Just do it whenever you can. 

On the next adventure
I dream on doing Thailand, Laos, Hanoi, Myanmar Trip. But for now, I have an upcoming trip to Taiwan this third quarter of the year. At present, I will be on solo.

Kalanggaman Island and many more

Long before it was famous, I dreamt to come to this island and it happened when I purchase Php219 roundtrip ticket to Tacloban. With a help of friend from Leyte, my brother and I joined my couple friends without planned itinerary. This was my last trip for 2016 with only one leave left remaining for december.

Palompon is jump-off point going to the island. My friend rented a taxi for P2K a day to pick us up at the airport and treated us on the island. Going there, you would need to ride a boat. The fee is much cheaper if you live in Palompon, a matter like this, so great finds that I am with her. 

The water was so inviting, it moved with the boat, so prestine and aqua green, I imagined jumping off the boat. 

A perfect afternoon, we were greeted by the matching sun, sky and sand bar.

It was so hot, I didnt fight the sun to reach the end of that sand bar and I surely shall return for the next round.

This is me having a copy of my youth. Good old days to say years from now.

And as I grow older, I seem to have thalassophobia or aquaphobia.  Sandbars are safe. According to my friend, it was named kalanggaman as it looks like a bird from top view.

It’s  best place to waste time and do nothing. We camped and stayed ’til the next morning. The sky was clear. It’s so satisfying to see loads of stars at night, but the latter, we woke up from the angry strong winds blowing and hitting our tents. It rained hard, I felt there was a typhoon, but nothing stopped them from enjoying.

Going back to Tacloban downtown, we passed some churches. St. Francis Xavier church was close that time. Weird.

Since Pope Francis went here after Leyte hit badly by typhoon Yolanda, luckily we stopped over to eat near Palo Cathedral. I got a chance to peek inside and felt blessed.

Before checking-in, we dropped at this famous landmark I used to see only on textbooks. This is the moment when Mac Arthur landed, fulfilling his promise of “I shall return”.

The next day, we woke up early and went to San Juanico Bridge, the longest in my country that connects Leyte and Samar, built under the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.

Better you check this on sunrise. You can walk as if you’re window shopping. Your feet wont get tired. Most people came to jog end to end.

Visiting Leyte, I thought it hasn’t still recovered from typhoon, but they somehow do. The stories of some random locals and drivers were moving. This disaster had marked deep.

I must visit again and will extend my travel to Samar. Next time, go with me…

Another trip to Hongkong and Macau

No one gets tired of Hong Kong. I mean, seriously, it is one of the best travel-friendly destinations even for solo. What I like is that, there is a large amount of information you can google about how to go around Hong Kong. You can’t find it in here, but I’m open to queries. 

I’ve been here so many times with different escorts. Whenever I get invited, 99%, it’s a yes. For this trip, I went with my officemates and I was their tour guide for free last November 5-8, 2016. Of-course, I purchased a promo flight ticket with Cebu Pacific getgo points.

I flew via Clark with a friend and met my officemates at HK Airport. The sunrise was a plus to pursue more travels.

The best location to capture Tsing Ma Bridge is at the front seat, upper side of a double decker A21 bus. Our hotel is at Yau Ma Tei area. 

Wong Taisin Temple is highly visited for those who would like their most wishes and prayers to come true. The last time I was here was when my first time in HK. All my travels were DIYs.

Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunery at Diamond Hill is an MTR station away from Wong Taisin, and all are entitled for free entrance and meditation but selfie sticks are not allowed to be used here. 

Hong Kong Victoria Harbour view is fantastic. There is a symphony of lights at night, which can be skipped. You may opt to take a Star ferry for around HKD2 and cruise to Central from Tsim Tsa Tsui and go back.

For us, we took Bus 15C and went to The Peak. 

This is me on a romantic place with zero fucks given. I copied the pose from my cousin. Avoiding queues going back, we rode Bus 15. The view and the ride are both exhilarating.

The second day, after I accompanied my officemates to Disney Land, I had my me time.

Uncommon to tourists, I decided to go with myself without a roaming phone to see HK Geopark. 

I wished I had more time and do hiking, or much, be healthy enough to do so. From Diamond Hill, I took Bus 92 and dropped off at Sai Kung Bus Terminal. I walked to Volcano Discovery Center and asked for info about their free tour, but the slot was already full. I took a taxi and paid around HKD100 to reach the park. This is for my memory bank purpose only. I tend to forget.

Most of the people here had their buddies and families. Some are awkwardly couples I had managed to looked away at. However, I ended with a pair who seemed sorry for me, alone, having difficulty taking a selfie. More to it, my realization came in when there are few taxis in the area to get us all back. It was getting darker and I imagined myself a loser. I risked to talk to some tourists. Somebody asked for one to share a taxi with them, I quickly grabbed the opportunity, won and saved myself from disgrace.

The next day is Hotel-Casino hopping day. There were few tourists here than on weekends, so I was lucky to have this picture taken. 

New to Macau are Parisian Hotel and Studio City Hotel. From Golden Reel Macau, here, we had fourteen minutes taking pictures with a minute to enjoy the view.

Last day is obviously a shopping day. First time, I went to Time Square and I got a chance to visit our office at Wan Chai area. On the afternoon, It rained at Ngong Ping. 

’til next time I get to write.


Trip to Mindanao Part 3

Limketkai Hotel in CDO is the only five star hotel in the city. Surprisingly, one night’s stay with breakfast is affordable. The price was also cheaper than Seda Hotel when I made the booking. The room we had was big and non-smoking. The lights made me pretty yipeeeyes. A perfect timing also, that on our stay in weekday, the infinity pool seemed to be exclusively reserved for us. 

On the last day, we opted to go to Dahilayan Adveture Park than going to Tinago Falls. Months before our trip, I was excited that to see Maria Cristina Falls. Way back on elementary days when all you had and could afford were cutout pictures, but time has come, I’ll be seeing it with my own eyes. Too bad, there was a recent bombing at Davao that made Maria Cristina Falls shut down indefinitely. So, I’ll be back to unlock that every Filipino kid’s dream.

Dahilayan Adventure Park is located in a sophisticated word of “Manolo Fortich”, Bukidnon. I wonder who named it. The weather is comparable to Baguio. That day was breezy. The Park offers zip lines, base jump and the like.

I aimed for Base Jump but I was kinda scared that time as nobody was trying it, so I took the all zip line package with Drop Zone.

But when I was at the Drop Zone site, the machine malfunctioned. Instead of Php100 refund, I’d rather try Base Jump. I told myself, if I dont do it, I wont be able to try paragliding, bungee jump and sky diving. 

So I jumped… Even in our lives, it is always the first step that we’re too scared to take, the same with this feeling. But when the staff counted to three, I jumped and gave my all…

We went back to CDO and paid the grab taxi driver Php1600 for the service.

A trip to Mindanao Part 2

I am a beach lover. Though, I have an upcoming Indochina trip next year which supposed to be of temples, eating and shopping, I’d make sure we’ll sip into the beach of Phuket. 

And this is the highlight of October trip. We woke up early and walked to the port going to White Island. I didn’t expect much but it happened to be the best sandbar I’d ever visited. 

As soon as we arrived, the competition is high. There were so many flocking tourists like me.

We had a good spot and I swam like a pro.  The water is nice by the way. There’s no scary shit everywhere. Sand is awesome.

A couple of hours swimming, the numbers of tourists were depleted. We found ourselves alone, basked in the sun and it was sooooo purfect spelling, no need to be corrected to emphasize the joy  I felt.

Everything was a hastag nofilter picture. The water, the sand, the mountain, the sky and me.

One last look. I’ll come back. I’ll CAMIGUIN. 😚

We had our brunch and went back to CDO.