Gallivanting around Bangkok, Thailand

During my 4D3N trip to Bangkok, Thailand, I was able to experience a lot of “firsts”.

 

It was my first time traveling to another country with a different time zone – Bangkok is an hour behind PH time. So, yeah, I basically went back in time! I am officially a time-traveling bitch! Lol. Ticking that off my bucket list! 🙂

First time staying in a hostel with mixed dorm rooms.

First time sharing a bathroom/shower area with hot, gorgeous foreign men with abs for days. *wink wink*

First time swimming with flesh-eating fish. FUN!

First time eating authentic Pad Thai and other Thai cuisines.

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First time going to a foreign country where I don’t look like a foreigner coz I kinda look like a Thai person. Haha!

First time falling in love with a 7-11 store.  I mean, look at THESE!!!

First time commuting by BOAT.

First time getting obsessed and addicted to handmade soaps.

 

 

First time riding a Tuk Tuk!

First time tasting taro-filled bread (and I super loved it!)

First time seeing penguins!

First time seeing wax figures (Tom, George, Julia, and Britney… bitch LOL).

AND first time doing Zumba while submerged in water.


My travel buddy and I did a lot of “When in Thailand…” stuff, except for the whole meet and greet with the elephants, the floating market, and the whole museum-temple-palace tour. I mean, I knew Bangkok has a lot of those and they’re majestic and ‘Gram-worthy… but I just wanted to do different stuff while I was there.

 

DAY 1 – OUT AND ABOUT THE CITY – GIANT SWING, GRAND PALACE, THA MAHARAJ, COMMUTER BOAT, MBK CENTER, SIAM DISCOVERY

This was probably the most exhausting. We arrived early so we couldn’t check in at our hostel yet. We stayed at Krit Hostel and Coffee Bar, located at Siripong Road. It’s a pretty good hostel for backpackers and those who have a tight budget. It WAS clean and quiet during the first two nights. But then some inconsiderate idiots came and ruined all that. The staff was friendly, chatty, helpful, and just overall congenial. My only concern was the fact that some guys were able to sneak in alcohol and were really loud and unruly all night long.

ANYWAY… we had our brunch first at this cute eatery nearby called “Kope Hya Tai Kee”. I was glad that they had vegetarian food there. I tried this dish called “rice with crispy fluffy fried egg and veggie pad kra paow”. Whew! That’s a mouthful! LOL! So I learned my FIRST LESSON here. When in Thailand… never, ever, trust the people when they say it’s ONLY A LITTLE spicy. They lie. Lol. Okay, they don’t lie. I just have like a really LOW tolerance for spicy food. Spicy food AND dumb people.

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Our first stop was the Giant Swing, which was like 2 minutes away on foot from Krit Hostel. I actually had expectations about this Giant Swing. For one thing, I was looking for an actual SWING. Lol. Anyway, according to my dear friend, Wiki: “The Giant Swing is a religious structure in Phra NakhonBangkokThailand. Located in front of Wat Suthat, it was formerly used in an old Brahmin ceremony and is one of Bangkok’s tourist attractions. An annual swinging ceremony known as Triyampavai-Tripavai was held at Giant Swings of major cities until 1935 when it was abolished for safety reasons. According to an ancient Hindu epic, after Brahma created the world he sent Shiva to look after it. When Shiva descended to the earth, Naga serpents wrapped around the mountains in order to keep the earth in place. After Shiva found the earth solid, the Nagas moved to the seas in celebration. The Swing Ceremony was a reenactment of this. The pillars of the Giant Swing represented the mountains, while the circular base of the swing represented the earth and the seas. In the ceremony, Brahmins would swing, trying to grab a bag of coins placed on one of the pillars.

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We didn’t stay there for too long coz the sun was like burning us to hell. We did see A LOT of pigeons there. And they were flocking around something that looked like green brains which were creepy. Lol. So if you’re into pigeon-watching or feeding, go visit the Giant Swing.

 

I think we went back to our hostel for a bit, checked in, freshened up, and then headed out again. Our plan was to take a pic of the Grand Palace – just outside coz I was wearing shorts and they won’t let me in. Lol. Okay, I knew they had a strict dress code. I just didn’t feel like wearing jeans or anything long and uncomfortable in that weather. Plus, I wasn’t too keen on entering the Grand Palace. I just really wanted to see the outside. So my friend and I started what we call our version of the “death march”. Under the scorching heat of the sun and the lovely humidity – we followed a map and started walking around the outside of the Grand Palace, in search of the “front side” so that we could get a sneak peek and take pics. Unfortunately, after almost twenty-nine years of trudging, we were not able to do that. The security around the Grand Palace was really tight and we saw a lot of mourners lining the streets and coming in and out of the palace.

A little trivia, Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is getting cremated in October, a year after his death. This was something I noticed (well, anyone with eyes would’ve noticed this LOL) while I was in Bangkok. He was EVERYWHERE. Never have I seen someone’s face THAT MUCH in one day. Every road, street, alley, establishment, store, restaurant – every single place you could think of – has a picture, a poster, or huge billboard of him. It’s fascinating how much they revered him.

After our failed attempt to get a glimpse of the majestic Grand Palace, we decided to just take the Chao Praya River Tour. We went to the nearest pier – Tha Maharaj.

We got a bit hungry and thirsty so we grabbed a bite to eat first. Wrong move. We should’ve checked the schedule first. Lol. So, yeah, unfortunately, the last boat left at 16:00 and I think it was almost 18:00 when we decided to buy tickets. Haha.

However, we were still able to take a “boat tour” – albeit aboard the normal commuter boat a.k.a. the “hop on and hop off as quickly as you can if you don’t want to fall into the water boat”. Haha. Due to the language barrier, it was a bit hard at first to ask for directions and help. Good thing a bubbly and helpful 아줌마 overheard us asking the woman at the ticket counter and she took us under her wings. Lol. Despite her broken English, she tried her best to give us directions and converse with us. Lucky for us, she was also alighting at the same pier. She was also like a tour guide coz she kept on pointing at some tourist places and saying stuff about them. I just wish I could understand her better. She was telling me to look at the “university” and I was like, “Oh, cool there’s a famous university here”… but she was saying “River City”. -.-

Anyway, the helpful 아줌마 guided us all the way to the BTS Skytrain station (I think it was Bang Wa) where we had to take a train to Siam Discovery. We wanted to visit Madame Tussauds and the Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World. When we got there, we found out from the lady selling tickets that we could still go in (I think it was past 19:00 then) but we already missed the last screening of the free 4D movie that they’re showing. So she suggested that we come back early morning tomorrow… which SUCKS. Like, we went all the way there. But my friend also said that (based on her experience) there are some booths selling tickets for both attractions at a lower price. So we decided to just go home and go back on Saturday.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time coz we took pictures around the MBK Center. This wall covered with fake graffiti and drawings of the MBK mascot, Ma Krub, is adorbs!

 

DAY 2 – ERAWAN WATERFALLS AND ERAWAN NATIONAL PARK, KHAO SAN ROAD

I realized that on every trip that we’ve made, we ALWAYS – like ALWAYS – visited a waterfall in that area. So it has become our thing. Or more like our #travelgoal .

We decided not to DIY this one and we just availed of the Erawan Waterfalls and River Kwai Tour from Day Tours Bangkok. They have a lot of one-day tours (or 2-3 days, depending on what you like) which was perfect for us. The price was 1,500 Baht per person and it might seem a bit pricey but it was totally worth it. Here’s part of their email:

“You will be collected from your hotel at 06:50 and first taken by minibus
to a meeting point where the tour groups areorganizedd and then to the
famous Erawan Waterfalls national park where you have the morning to walk
all the way to the top and observe the seven beautiful waterfalls that
make up this great national park.

You will eat lunch (Thai food choose one dish) near the Erawan Waterfalls
and after lunch, next stop is the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi and here you
will visit the famous Bridge over the River Kwai(about 10 min).

You will return to Bangkok (Khaosan Road area) by around 19:30 depending
upon traffic.”

So there were other people with us on the tour but they were all foreigners and they were pretty chill and nice. The trip took about 3 hours. When we arrived, I thought the tour guide would actually “guide” us and explain stuff along the way – which was what he was hired to do, right? I mean… okay. Everything about this tour (and the company) was actually pretty GOOD. There was no hassle at all. I just have to comment on the tour guide they hired. I mean, they could at least hire someone more personable and chatty and bubbly.  And someone with a better English communication skill. This tour guide was just cranky and snappy and moody. When we arrived, he was talking too fast and explaining about what time we were expected to eat lunch and come back to the meeting spot, but he didn’t care that NOBODY understood a word he said. He just said it and then turned his back on us.

MOVING ON… we trekked by ourselves and it was fine coz the Erawan National Park had signs all over the place. The trail was also mostly flat and cemented so it wasn’t that hard. So there are SEVEN waterfalls; the third one is 150 meters away from the starting point, the seventh is 1,550 meters away. OF COURSE, we only went as far as the third one. Haha. We weren’t really keen on visiting all seven. We just wanted to take a dip in one of them – preferably a shallow one coz I CANNOT swim.

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There weren’t a lot of people at first, but when we went back to the second waterfall – which was the BEST place to “swim”, or in my case “walk around”, the place had become more crowded. It was funny coz the first waterfall was 3 meters deep and I didn’t know how deep that was (like I was ready to jump in) until my friend lectured me about it. Haha. So, NOTE TO SELF: If the water is 3-meter deep, DON’T. Just DON’T. Lol!

Probably part of the “attraction” at the Erawan Waterfalls are the FLESH-EATING FISH swimming around and lurking in the waters. I know it sounds terrifying but… well, yeah, IT IS terrifying. Especially seeing them up close! They’re HUGE and, despite the tour guide assuring us that they’d just “nibble” not bite, I knew they were going to freakin’ BITE! Lol!

So my friend had more balls than me so she got in the water first. The rule was not to stay still for more than 10 seconds coz if you do, those nasty flesh-eating fish are going to attack you. Haha! She reassured me, however, that the bigger ones don’t bite – they actually didn’t come near her. It was the smaller ones that would chew on the dead skin cells around your feet. And we noticed that they only attack human feet. They actually don’t care much for any part of our body. Just the feet. Hmm. Feet fetish? Lol!

After much convincing from my friend, and because the prickly heat was annoying me, I finally gave in and just jumped into the water. It was funny coz from the moment I got in, I kept on moving and jumping around  – doing some “Zumba” dance moves lol – coz I was terrified of staying still for a second. It was a great workout for us. Haha. The water was not as COOL as the water in Baler’s Mother Falls but it did cool me off and I felt so refreshed afterward.

Not sure how long we stayed there, jumping around and making fun of this Johnny Bravo-ish dude doing pictorials with his boyfie… We got out of the water and decided to head back to the meeting place where we could have our free lunch. I was kinda worried about this coz I feel like we won’t have many choices, coz it was free. However, they served vegetarian meals in that eatery so, YAY for me!

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And it was FREAKIN’ delish! One of the best meals I’ve had in Thailand.

We got on the “mini bus” (which was actually a van) and headed to the famous Bridge on the River Kwai. I didn’t know much about this. So, apparently, there was a 1950s movie about this famous bridge. And the historical relevance is “During WW II, Japan constructed the meter-gauge railway line from Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma. The line passing through the scenic Three Pagodas Pass runs for 250 miles. This is now known as the Death Railway. The construction was done using POWs and Asian slave laborers in unfavorable conditions. The work started in October 1942 was completed in a year. Due to the difficult terrain, thousands of laborers lost their lives. It is believed that one life was lost for each sleeper laid on the track.

We would’ve crossed the bridge and gotten all the way to the other side if it weren’t for the fact that WE WERE BURNING IN HELL. Like, I’m not even kidding. It felt like I’ve developed skin cancer from the heat of the sun during my 10-minute stay there.

The 3-hour drive back to Bangkok was uneventful and quiet. The tour guide was not with us anymore, which was fine coz we didn’t really need him anyway. Lol. OH! We stopped at a gas station and my friend bought some sliced guava from a stall there and IT WAS DA BOMB! Like, seriously! I should’ve bought one too! I just tried hers and I loved it!

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^ These fruits are a must-try!

The driver dropped us off at Khao San Road, as promised. This is where the night life is happening. But we weren’t up for that. We were icky and drained and still a bit wet (coz we just let the sun dry us lol), so we just wanted to go home. We did look around for a bit.

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And that was when we smelled something REALLY, REALLY GOOD. So this dude just opened his stall and was taking out these cute handmade soaps (which were designed like different fruits and flowers) and MAN, THEY SMELLED SOOOOOOOO DAMN GOOD! Like, for real! Especially the WATERMELON soap! I think we stayed there for more than 5 minutes, just sniffing out all the handmade soaps that he was putting on the table. Like addicts. Lol. He was selling them for 60 Baht each but we haggled and asked if he could sell them for 50 Baht each and he said YES right away. Little did we know that in Chatuchak Weekend Market, they sell these handmade soaps for only 25 Baht each. Ugh. But that gave us a fleeting moment of relaxation and happiness. I swear I’m still sniffing these soaps every now and then. Lol!

 

DAY 3: CHATUCHAK WEEKEND MARKET, JIM THOMPSON’S HOUSE, SEA LIFE BANGKOK OCEAN WORLD, MBK CENTER, SIAM PARAGON, SIAM DISCOVERY

Our first stop was the Chatuchak Weekend Market. The nice lady at Krit Hostel taught us how to get there by bus. We were planning to take the longer (and more expensive) route – taxi and then BTS Skytrain. Lol. Good thing she was there to help us out. We just walked for a bit from Krit Hostel and then waited for the right bus (numbers 44, 59, or 503) which would directly take us to Chatuchak Market. We were there early so it wasn’t packed yet. It reminded me of Divisoria and the Night Market in Baguio City. The place was GINORMOUS. I read somewhere that there are about 15,000 stalls/shops.

We were calmly walking and looking around when we smelled something GOOD! Like something vaguely familiar. It was like deja vu! Haha! We turned a corner and saw this shop!!! I mean, look at ALL those handmade soaps!!! I think we spent an unnecessary amount of time in that shop, just admiring the intricate designs and how real they looked and just sniffing the hell out of each one of them! Lol. The bigger ones were 4 for 100 Baht and the small ones were 5 for 100 Baht. Pretty good deal! So they’re not really soaps for your body, they’re more like some kind of air freshener/deodorizer.

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I also treated myself and bought this cute red backpack for 199 Baht. I thought really hard before purchasing it coz I’m a cheapass bitch and I didn’t want to regret buying a 300-peso bag. All my bags cost less than that. Lol. Anyway, a few minutes after buying it, I immediately regretted it. Coz there was another store outside selling the same freakin’ bag for 130 Baht!!!  WTF.

We decided to take it easy on our third day – just visit a couple of places and then go shopping. HOWEVER, there is no such thing as a relaxing, walk in the park day when you’re in Bangkok. Lol. Well, it was the weekend so it was understandable why the malls were packed. The funny thing was, when we went to the Siam Discovery early in the morning, around 10 AM, it was pretty chillaxed and almost empty. So, we thought, “Oh, cool, the malls here aren’t crowded like in Manila”. WE WERE WRONG. Lol.

So before buying tickets to Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, we had to go out and look for another currency exchange place coz the ones inside the malls were buying PHP for only 45 Baht, whereas it’s 65+ Baht in other places.

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Finally, we saw this place called SUPER RICH  THAILAND CURRENCY EXCHANGE and we were lucky we did! I highly recommend that you exchange your money at this place when you’re in Thailand. Their rates are WAY BETTER than those banks. AND the lady even gave us these TOURIST DISCOUNT COUPONS – for Madame Tussauds and Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World! Good thing we haven’t bought tickets yet! A 30% discount was exactly what we needed!

After that, we headed toward the famous Jim Thompson’s House. You can actually walk from the main road to the house, it’s probably a 5-minute walk, but we decided to just wait for the “shuttle service” to take us there. Coz we’re so bougie. Haha. There’s an entrance fee of 100 Baht and then you can avail of the tour in a language that you prefer. Of course, we chose Korean. JK. We took the English tour. We had to wait for about 30 minutes before the start of the next tour so we looked around the place first.

A little history: “The Jim Thompson House is a museum in central Bangkok, Thailand, housing the art collection of American businessman and architect Jim Thompson, the museum designer, and former owner.” If you want to know more about this fascinating dude who met a mysterious and sad ending, read more here.

We entered this place which displayed some kind of modern art exhibition, a.k.a. some weird shit that I don’t get. Lol. I mean, I understand SOME art works, but these ones were just… weird AF.

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Like this pool of hair which was randomly collected from some barbershop in the 1900s.

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Or this military jacket filled with coral reef stones.

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Or these stones….

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And while my friend was taking this pic of me with the ugly mask behind me, I was smiling at first but I saw a video clip playing behind her that totally STUNNED me. Lol. It was a video clip of a Russian dude – stark naked – punching and kicking another him, which was translucent and ghost-like.

There was an explanation there but I couldn’t remember. Something about the artist having self-conflict coz of his religion…

Moving on… the tour of the house was pretty good mainly coz the Thai woman was very expressive. I mean, listening to her tell the story of Jim Thompson was like listening to some kind of spoken poetry. I loved how she talked in a sweet, calm voice with a cute rising and falling intonation.

I guess the most interesting tidbit was the fact that at the age of 61, Jim Thompson went to meet some friends in Malaysia and never came back. They never heard from him again. They never found his body. He just vanished into thin air. No one knew exactly what happened to him.

After the tour, we just took pics around the place and left.

We went back to Siam Paragon for our Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World tour. I was pretty excited about this coz I’ve never been to a walk through aquarium before.

I met some fascinating sea creatures there but the highlight was the PENGUINS!!! I can finally say that I’ve seen penguins in person! Haha!

There was this sinister-looking shark swimming around and giving us the side eye but what’s creepier was that gigantic statue behind it.

These artistic, psychedelic thingies were also pretty cool.

The place was HUGE! We didn’t think the tour would take more than an hour! It felt like we were walking for hours and we still couldn’t find the EXIT. Lol.

But I had a bit of fun and I let my inner child come out to play. Haha!

I love how this seahorse and starfish are so like me: JUST HANGING IN THERE. LOL!

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For lunch, I finally had the famous PAD THAI. We ate at this bougie-looking place called The Fifth Food Avenue at MBK Center.

I kinda liked the system here. So when you enter, you have to get a “card” from the lady at the front desk and give her a certain amount to put in your card – like a deposit money. You then order some food and pay using that card. You can refund your remaining balance before you leave the place, after surrendering the card to the same lady. The Fifth Food Avenue offers a plethora of international cuisines from Lebanese to Indian to Mexican to Vietnamese.

These Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are DA BOMB!!!

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And my first Pad Thai was soooooooo damn good. But the serving was too much for me. Lol. So I had to take home half of it and I ate it for dinner later that night.

My dad wanted me to buy these disco-like light bulbs at the MBK Center so we went there afterward. The first time we went there, I already saw these Thai crispy pancakes (Khanom Buang) and they were fascinating to look at coz you would think, at first, that they were tacos or something. It is actually made of rice flour, which serves as a delicious vessel to the rich (and colorful) meringue topped with candied duck egg yolk. So I gave in to the temptation and bought one. AND I LOVED IT. So I bought another one. Lol. IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you try this when in Thailand.

After buying my dad’s light bulbs, we headed home. So it was freakin’ difficult to get a cab home from the Phaya Thai station of the BTS Skytrain. And we didn’t really understand WHY THE FUCK. We tried Grab but it was WAY too expensive. The moment we start talking to the cab drivers and showing them a map and pointing to where we are headed, they all rejected us. They were all like “try another cab” or “I don’t know” or they simply shook their heads and said “NO”. Like, WTF?! It was not like we’re going to another dimension or something! And it is a well-known area coz it was so near the popular tourist spots like the Giant Swing and the FREAKIN’ GRAND PALACE!

I got used to cab drivers in my country who’d be super enthusiastic and overzealously (to the point that it’s borderline creepy and scary) ask me if I want a ride and where I’m going even if I didn’t flag them down. Apparently, cab drivers in Thailand don’t want to earn money. I mean, we are PAYING customers dammit.

Anyway, after a few failed attempts, this Tuk Tuk suddenly parked near us and two men approached us. We were hesitant at first coz we knew it’d be WAY TOO expensive. So they asked where we were going and we showed them our map and the instructions which were written in Thai. That was another thing that pissed us off with the cab drivers who said “I don’t know” — our map had pictures of the popular monuments and it had the names of the places written in FREAKIN’ THAI — in their language! You’d think they’d stop for a second and read the freakin’ thing before saying I DON’T KNOW. Ugh.

Sorry. That just got me so riled up coz it was a very frustrating experience for us. Okay, deep breaths…

Going back to the two men… at least they took a good look at our map and read the instructions on the paper that we printed out. But of course, they were asking us for A LOT of money. They were like 200 Baht. And we were like, UH, HELL NO. Coz we took a regular cab from the same place the other day and the fare was only 75 Baht.  So we haggled and we were like 150. The other guy, who was not really the driver of the Tuk Tuk got pissed off and walked away. He kept on insisting that it was 200 coz it was too far. The driver actually looked like he was okay with our price, I mean it wasn’t that bad. And he was not saying anything. After a minute or so of haggling, they gave up. LOL. We won. They were like, “okay okay, 150”. VICTORY!

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SIDE THOUGHT: When in Thailand… OF COURSE you’d see Mario freakin’ Maurer everywhere. Haha! He’s seriously endorsing chlorophyll…?! LOL

Our flight the next day was at 9:35 AM so we had to leave early. We decided to just take a Grab to the Phaya Thai BTS station coz we were like so familiar with that place now. Haha. And that would take us straight to the station at the airport – the Suvarnabhumi Station.

SIDE THOUGHT: I’ve been to Singapore before and they have the same system – their subway also has a station straight to the airport which is sooooooooo much better and more convenient. I don’t get why we cannot have the same thing here in my country. That would definitely eliminate traffic around the airport area AND make life easier for A LOT of people – not just the travelers! And we won’t get rip off by greedy cab drivers who think everyone who goes to the airport has A LOT of money. 

Anyway… the nice cab driver was a bit confused at first and we didn’t know why. He kept on asking “Where you go?” and we said “Phaya Thai BTS” he kept on repeating “Phaya Thai…? Phaya Thai…?” After a minute of him asking the same question and us giving him the same answer, my friend explained and was like “We’re going to the airport.” And I guess he heard the word “airport” and was like “Airport link! Ahhh…” So apparently, Phaya Thai was still a bit far so he took us to the nearer BTS station which would is what they call an “Airport link” station. It was Ratchaprarop Station.

SIDE THOUGHT AGAIN: I really thought it would be easy to communicate with Thai people coz, like Filipinos, I thought they know basic English. I was wrong. We struggled A LOT with the language barrier. We had to sort of dumb down our English and use broken English most of the time to get our message across. At Krit Hostel, my friend and I were asking a “receipt” from the front desk staff and she couldn’t understand what a receipt was. My friend explained it but she was clueless. And then a foreigner (who could speak Thai) stepped in and he was like “It’s like ticket” and she finally understood. So they use some English words in different context.

And then there was that funny incident at the BTS Station. So it was still too early that was why it was empty save for a foreign couple who were also in a hurry to get to the airport. My friend and I were about to take the escalator on the LEFT, but we saw that it was going down, not up. So we walked over to the one on the right side. But before we reached it, the security guard yelled at us “LIFT! LIFT!” and was pointing toward the LEFT escalator. So we were like, “Oh, Okay. We’re supposed to take the LEFT escalator?” so we headed there, but it was still GOING DOWN, not UP. So we thought maybe he made a mistake. Confused, we walked back toward the right escalator and this time the guard was ANGRILY screaming at us “LIFT!!! LIFT!!!” Even the foreign couple with us was confused! LOL. And then we saw it… he was referring to the LIFT/ELEVATOR on the LEFT side. We DID NOT see that. Hahahaha! When we finally saw it and headed toward it, he gave a LOUD and exasperated sigh that sounded like, “THESE IDIOTS”. LOL!

So that concludes my 4D3N in Bangkok, Thailand! I guess the trip to Erawan National Park and swimming with the flesh-eating fish in the Erawan Waterfall were the most memorable. It was also fascinating to have a first-hand experience of Thai culture and finally taste authentic Thai food. I also got to see a bit of the Tak Bat Buddhist ceremony where they give food to Buddhist monks who are walking around barefoot. I learned that “it’s a way to support the monks, who study and practice Buddha’s teachings, by offering them food. At the same time, they are learning to give and to let go.”

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All in all, it was a much-needed break from my stressful and thankless job. I’d probably go back to Thailand, but not in Bangkok. Maybe Ko Phi Phi or Chiang Mai would be more ideal.

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Unplugging and Unwinding at Cagbalete Island

I’ve been depressed lately. Like, seriously super depressed for reasons I can’t even fathom or explain. My recent trip to the breathtaking island of Cagbalete, off the coast of Mauban, Quezon, helped me say goodbye to the dreadful “D” word.

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Thanks to a sudden invitation by my travel buddy, Celine, I was able to experience an affordable and less crowded island getaway for a weekend.

Before this trip, I had no idea where Cagbalete Island was located. I didn’t even know that this island exists! I realized that I should explore more places and islands in my country and I should be ashamed of myself. ^^

ANYWAY… This “1 Night 2 Days” trip to Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon started in Manila. Now, if you have been reading my blogs before, you would know that I live in Baguio. So, basically, I traveled 7 hours by bus from Baguio City to Manila. I arrived in Manila and headed to Celine’s house in Sucat first since that was where they would pick us up.

THEY – Celine’s “team” at work, plus her boss and two of her coworkers’ girlfriends.

Yes. I “gate crashed” some sort of team company outing. In my defense, I was properly invited and I firmly believe that “the more, the merrier”. LOL.

Celine’s boss rented a van and picked us up at around 3 AM on Saturday, May 14. The rest of the team were already in the van. So I didn’t have enough time to say my “hellos” and introduce myself. The trip to Quezon was surprisingly quick. Maybe because there was no heavy traffic early in the morning. We dropped by Celine’s boss’s friend for some quick breakfast before heading to Mauban Port.

I can’t exactly remember the time, but the sun was glaring down on us by then, so I think it was around 9 or 10 AM when we arrived in Mauban Port. We were greeted by a considerably large amount of people waiting under the heat of the sun for their turn to get on the boats. Luckily, Celine’s boss had a “contact” there so we didn’t have to queue along with all those tourists.

I admit I was a bit disheartened at this point. I just thought there would only be a few people going to the island, since I was under the impression that it was an undiscovered, virgin island. Apparently, it has been a popular tourist destination for quite some time now. I was just not aware of it. I was not informed. XD

According to my research, you must go to the Tourism Office of Mauban first and pay 50 pesos for the boat ticket and another 50 pesos for the environmental fee. The boat ride was supposed to last for about 45 minutes only. However, it was windy and the waves were too big at that time, so it took a little over an hour for us to get to Cagbalete Island, from Mauban Port. I think the boat ride would cost around 400 pesos (one way) IF you are going to Sabang Port. From there, you could walk to your resort. The boat could seat 5 to 6 people. However, we stayed in Aguho Playa Beach Resort and I THINK (I’m NOT 100% sure, ok) the boat ride + tour was already set by the resort owner/caretaker. I guess the other resorts are also offering the same boat transfer + boat ride package.

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The extremely long boat ride seemed to have taken ages. When we arrived at Aguho Playa Beach Resort, it was almost lunch time. The great thing about this island is that, despite the number of resorts around it and the flock of tourists visiting it, it’s still not overly developed. So, if you really want to experience “nature at its best”, you could opt for a tent by the beach front, instead of the usual nipa hut with electric fan or A/C. From what I’ve heard, the rent fee of a tent for two people is 600 pesos. If you have your own tent, you will only pay 300 pesos (I guess for the “space”). The nipa hut that we rented, which was for 6 to 8 people, I think, cost 2,500 pesos per night.

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Food is not a problem on this island. The locals (a.k.a. the owners/caretakers of the resort) would gladly cook anything for you. You just need to bring your own ingredients (rice, meat, veggies, etc.) and tell them what kind of dish you want. They would let you borrow their kitchen and cooking utensils and let you do the cooking too, if that’s what you prefer. Kuya Udoy and his wife were very warm, welcoming and helpful. If there was anything we need, like cigarettes or ice, they willingly bought it for us.

Before having lunch, Celine and I decided to take pictures by the ocean. The white sand and the clear blue waters were pretty spectacular. We took a little dip in the water as well because we were feeling so sticky already. It was low tide so the shoreline was extended. I kinda liked it coz I can’t swim and it felt good to be able to go far away from the shore without drowning.

The weather in Cagbalete Island (and in Mauban, Quezon) was very unpredictable. And when I say UNPREDICTABLE, I mean it could be hot and sunny one minute and windy and rainy the next minute. So I would suggest that you bring an umbrella or at least a hooded jacket if you don’t want to get wet.

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After our sumptuous lunch, we took a rest and then off we went to experience the famous Cagbalete Island “sandbar”. The not-so-fun part of this trip was the long, dizzying boat ride. It’s a good thing I didn’t get seasick. To our dismay, the part of the island with the sandbar was still a bit “high tide”. So we couldn’t get the FULL sandbar experience. We made tambay there, walked around the shallow water and took pictures, as we waited for the Cagbalete Island sandbar to appear. After a while, we decided to just go snorkeling first. Well, THEY went snorkeling. At this point, I was already sunburned, dehydrated, sweaty, drowsy and worn out to enjoy snorkeling. Besides, I heard that there was nothing much to see down there. Just a bunch of corals and some very small fish.

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When they finished snorkeling, we went back to the Cagbalete Island sandbar and finally the crowd has thinned out and the sandbar was more visible. We were able to take lots of pictures and we even fooled around and shot a short “running man” video, which, btw, I was clueless about. LOL. Yes, I’ve been living under a rock in a mountain, quite literally. Celine just taught me how to do it and I just copied what they were doing. But it was really fun!

The trip back to Aguho Playa Beach Resort was quiet and uneventful.

The real struggle started when the men operating the boat told us that we had two choices: walk across the extremely low tide ocean all the way back to our cottage or walk for about 15 minutes, on a path that cuts through a residential area and a creepy forest. I might not be a fan of jogging, but I do like walking. HOWEVER, I do not like doing it after an already dead-tiring day in the ocean. PLUS, the boat guys totally lied to us. It wasn’t a 15-minute walk, it felt like 30 minutes! Or maybe they have a very different definition of “15-minute walk”.

The next struggle was the COMFORT ROOM challenge. One of Celine’s coworkers already warned us that the queue in the C.R. would drive us crazy. He was right. Celine and I badly wanted to wash up quickly and take a rest so we just used the shower right outside our nipa hut. We didn’t care anymore that we were exposed to the outside world. I just wanted to get rid of the salty sea water and icky sand all over my body. LOL.

Dinner time! Kuya Udoy brought us freshly caught shrimps that morning and we had it for dinner. Although it was only boiled in water and salt, it was the BEST shrimp I’ve ever had in my life. The adobo, which was made by Celine’s boss (I think), was VERY tasty too! I’ve never had that kind of adobo before. There was something special about it.

After dinner, Celine and I were both too tired to do anything else so we just went to bed. I think the boys had a little drinking session until the wee hours of the night. As much as I wanted to join them (coz I also needed a drink or two), I was just too mentally and physically beat.

Apparently, since the island of Cagbalete doesn’t have its own power lines, the electricity comes from the generators. I woke up the next day feeling a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure what time did they turn off the power, but the electric fan was suddenly not working and that’s what woke me up. It was around 7 AM. I guess it was a routine power outage or something.

We learned our lesson from the previous day, so Celine and I decided to take advantage of the comfort rooms early in the morning. We took a shower even before having breakfast.

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We didn’t have any more activities so we just packed our things and then went to the beach for some more photo op. It was low tide again so a “mini” sandbar appeared near our resort. That’s where we took lots of jumpshot pics.

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We saw this foreign dude (taking advantage of the low tide) kite surfing. I was a bit mesmerized by what he was doing and I took a lot of pictures. ^^ I badly wanted to try it myself. Haha!

My stay at Cagbalete Island did not just help me unplug (coz there was really no phone signal or Internet connection) from the world, it also made me temporarily forget about my stress and depression. I count myself extremely fortunate to be able to experience (albeit only for a short time) such an enchantingly marvelous place. I hope that Cagbalete Island would stay this way and won’t turn into an overexposed, overcrowded and overdeveloped island, like Boracay.

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We go to an island like this to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and find some serene and relaxing time. We don’t go there to destroy its natural beauty. Just sayin’.

For more details on how to get there (if you are not going to rent a van/car like us), check out this blog.

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Wandering Around Bolinao, Pangasinan

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The Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok, holiday is something that I always look forward to. I get to have 5 days off from work while almost everyone else is working their asses off or going to school. *insert evil laugh* So it’s always the best time for me to travel coz it’s not the ‘peak season’ and the travel spots are not too crowded. Last year, I joined my high school friend/ travel buddy’s family on their trip to Dumaguete and Siquijor. This Chuseok, my travel buddy, Ayen and another friend of mine, Au, decided to explore the majestic and untraveled city of Bolinao, Pangasinan. Ayen lives in Quezon City, while Au and I hail from Baguio City. So we decided to meet up at the Alaminos bus station and go to Bolinao from there. We found out that going there by bus was not a walk in the park. We had to transfer thrice because there was no bus trip going straight to Bolinao from Baguio City. Actually, there is a Baguio-Bolinao bus BUT the first trip is at 11 AM. We wanted to arrive there early so we just took the 4 AM bus to Dagupan. From Dagupan, we had to take the Alaminos bound bus and from there, we took the Bolinao bound bus.

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When you reach Bolinao, you don’t need to worry about finding a tour guide; a flock of tricycle drivers will appear before you the minute you get off the bus. All you need to do is take your pick and start haggling. Since Ayen already did her research, she was able to get the best tour guide/tricycle driver for us. Kuya Jhom was actually recommended by the owner of Benjie’s Cottages, where we stayed on our first night. Since it wasn’t the peak season, he gave us a good discount. We were supposed to stay at Rock Garden Resort but we decided that it’s better to stay somewhere in Patar so we can enjoy the famous ‘white beach’ more. Since we arrived there past 2 PM already, we just had a quick lunch at much-talked-about “Adoras”, which, IMO, was not that special. I mean, I’ve read so much about it in different blogs but it was just… ordinary. I guess it was overrated. Maybe I should’ve tried their special bulalo or something. Anyway, my friend was not kidding when she told me that Patar Beach was VERY far from the other tourist spots. After an hour of a bumpy and rocky tricycle ride, we finally arrived at Benjie’s Cottages which overlooks the ‘creamy’ beach of Patar. Yep. It was not a white beach; it was more like coffee with cream. Haha. We decided to stay at the tree house coz it’s way cooler than a normal cottage room.

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^View from the tree house

FIRST STOP: Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

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This was just 10 minutes away from Benjie’s so we decided to check it out and probably see the sunset from there. The sun was too bright while we were there so it was extremely difficult to take pictures. I couldn’t even see my phone’s screen. Haha! The lighthouse was locked and I’ve heard that not all tourists can enter it. Just when we were about to leave, though, someone opened the gate for a small group of tourists. Kuya Jhom immediately signaled us to go inside too. At first, the ‘gate keeper’ blocked our way but Kuya Jhom told him to let us come and he did! It was one of the best experiences ever despite the dizzying and exhausting climb. It was my first time to enter a lighthouse and I enjoyed every minute of it. When we reached the top, we couldn’t take proper selfies coz the wind was blowing too hard. The view, however, was simply breath-taking. If there was a zombie apocalypse, I figured I could just stay on top of that lighthouse since the zombies would be too tired or too weak to reach the top. Haha!

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SECOND STOP: Patar “Creamy” Beach

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The best thing about our stay at the beach was the fact that, save for a couple of ladies taking a rest a few meters away, we had it all to ourselves. It wasn’t awkward to take pictures and act silly. I even took my topper off despite the fact that I wasn’t too confident about my fat belly. But then again, who freakin’ cares? Haha! It was peaceful, relaxing and quiet. It was like we reserved the place. 🙂

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The weather was not really good so we weren’t able to capture the sunset. The sun sort of hid behind the clouds. T_T We decided to take a shower and prepare for dinner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a real cowboy and I’m not fastidious or anything. I can stay in cheap accommodations. But I can only tolerate too much mess and dirt. Especially in the toilet. A dirty toilet is one of my pet peeves. I just don’t get why people wouldn’t take a few seconds of their time to flush the freakin’ toilet bowl. ANYWAY, my friends and I figured out later that we paid for the beautiful, creamy beach, not for the accommodations. Haha! A very frustrating and annoying thing happened to Au and me. Ayen was lucky coz she already finished taking a shower before it happened. There were other guests, a group of guys, who were lined up at the nearest toilet so we had to use the one farther from our cottage. Just when we were about to go inside, the lights went out. There was a blackout. The generator could only power the nearest cottages and toilet. So Au and I just took a shower together –in total darkness. Haha! We couldn’t wait any longer because we were cold. That was another first for me – taking a shower in complete darkness. LOL.

The next day, we packed up after breakfast and started our tour. Benjie’s was a great place, if they fix it up a bit more. Our plan was to take the tour and then transfer to Rock Garden Resort for our second night. We just wanted to stay somewhere with a proper and decent toilet. ^^

THIRD STOP: ROCK FORMATION

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???????????????????????????????        I’ve heard that this was supposed to be a haven for most photographers. It was quite interesting but I didn’t enjoy it that much coz it was so freakin’ hot and the sun was shining TOO brightly. Kuya Jhom told us that a 16-year-old girl tried cliff jumping in there before. She survived. I almost wanted to try it too coz it wasn’t that high. But the waves were too strong and I felt like I might hit a rock or something. Plus, I needed a life vest coz I cannot swim. T_T

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FOURTH STOP: Wonderful Cave

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Now this is where things got more interesting and way more fun. We thought Kuya Jhom was joking when he said that ‘Wonderful Cave’ belongs to his family. Apparently, it was true. When we reached the cave, he started telling us the ‘history’ of the cave. His late father was just walking around and shooting rocks (with a slingshot) at random rocks. That’s when he discovered the cave underneath some huge pile of rocks. There was actually a bit of a family feud over the ownership of the Wonderful Cave and the Enchanted Cave. The latter was owned by Kuya Jhom’s grandmother and from what I understood; they were claiming that the former was also their property.

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Once again, we had the cave all to ourselves so we swam for a quite a while. I didn’t want to get out of the water. The water was so clear, bluish-greenish, cool and almost magical. You could see the rocks at the bottom. Since none of us could swim, we decided to just stay by the roped area because it was only 3-4 feet. The middle part, past the roped area, was 8 feet deep. After waddling, and attempting to float, around the water for almost 30 minutes, we decided to leave… with a heavy heart. I really didn’t want to go because it was so relaxing. I wanted to have my own cave too. Haha! There was another cave nearby but there was no water. It was more like the kind of cave where you could go spelunking… and probably get eaten by a horde of deformed cannibals. LOL. We were told that a variety of birds lived inside that cave.

FIFTH STOP: Enchanted Cave

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Unlike the Wonderful Cave, this one is bigger and more developed. There were lots of areas that you could take pictures of before reaching the majestic cave. I found it interesting that most if the huge rocks around the place were actually giant corals. They were proof that Bolinao used to be underwater thousands of years ago. While we were walking around with our tour guide, a cute kitten kept on following us and photobombing in our pictures. Haha! The cave was bigger and more developed than the Wonderful Cave, albeit the lights were dimmer. It was difficult to take proper pictures even with our cam’s flash.

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OH YEAH. We had the place to ourselves again. It felt like our own, private underground pool. Haha! This one was much deeper so we had to hold on to the ropes on the side to be able to go around. You don’t need to worry coz there’s a lifeguard standing by in case of emergency. I wanted to see the other side but it was a bit difficult to get through the huge coral rock so we just stayed there and took lots of selfie. Haha. The best part of this was taking pictures underwater. Haha! I thought it wasn’t that hard but I was dead wrong. We had to smile while holding our breath and I realized that I couldn’t hold my breath without making the ridiculous puffer fish face. LOL.

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While I was struggling to keep my eyes open, hold my breath and smile at the same time, Ayen was calmly and perfectly smiling beside me – with her freakin’ dimples showing! WTF. After many attempts, wherein I swallowed half a liter of water, we finally stopped. Some tourists arrived and our lunch was ready so we decided, with a heavy heart, to get out of the water.

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Although the food was quite delicious, we thought the serving didn’t justify the price. We thought it was kinda overpriced.

        SIXTH STOP: Balingasay River

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There was nothing much to see here, unless you’re going to take the ‘boat tour’. It was known as the cleanest river in the province and one of the cleanest in the Philippines. The serene green waters and the line of mangroves by the riverbank were a bit enticing. I wanted to lie down on a boat and give in to my stupor. Haha! We were told that the water from the river flows through the waterfalls. Our tour guide told us that during summer, there is a floating restaurant here and we could take a boat tour while waiting for our order.

SEVENTH STOP: Bolinao Waterfalls

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I’ve visited about 4 waterfalls before and they were all fantastic. This one was probably the cleanest and biggest. The water was very cool and clear. It was like the water from the cave. We couldn’t take a dip into the first waterfalls because it was 20-feet deep. Even if I could swim, it would still be scary because of the rush of water. We went to the second waterfalls. This time, there were more than a dozen people swimming so we didn’t have the place to ourselves. They all seemed like locals, though. We spent a bit of time walking around the area, trying to find a spot with a shade. It was just too hot for us. It was a bit difficult to waddle around even though it was not too deep because there were slippery coral rocks underneath and one wrong step could hurt us.

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After a while, we transferred near the falls coz that spot seemed cozy. Hehe. I saw some guys jumping off the falls and I wanted badly to jump off too. One of the guys was talking us into jumping, saying that it was okay since we rented a floating tube. I was almost convinced to do it and I wanted to tell him to wait for me down there and hand the tube once I emerge from the water. But Ayen was a bit uncertain coz we might hit some rocks down there. I was also scared but I thought this was a once in a lifetime chance. I won’t be able to do it again. In the end, I didn’t jump coz the guy already left and nobody was there to save me. T_T

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Hiking towards the waterfalls and climbing up and down those caves drained our energy. After another long and bumpy ride back into town, we stopped by Bolinao Grill for an early dinner. Something on the menu instantly caught our eyes.

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P500 for ALL of that? Hell yeah~ Haha! It was the most satisfying meal we’ve had since we arrived here.  And it wasn’t overrated OR overpriced. LOL.

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After a long day, we went back to Rock Garden Resort to shower and get some rest. There was actually something creepy about the place at night. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that aside from our next door neighbors, we were the only guests there. And there were some unidentified drunk guys loitering around and attempting to strike a conversation with us. We were a bit wary and uncomfortable before going to bed.

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The next day we got up early and looked around the mini-zoo while waiting for our breakfast.  The only problem here was the beach was not ‘swimmable’. It was too rocky and seaweed-y. Haha! So we paid for the accommodations here, not the beach. Hehe. We ate breakfast by the beach and then went kayaking! Yep. We were supposed to check out by noon but the fun was not yet over for us. 🙂

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It was, yet, another first for me. I’ve always wanted to go kayaking and I finally did it. Albeit, the water was not wild and running, it was calm. Actually, the water didn’t seem like ocean water. There were no waves. It was just like a calm river. Luckily, Ayen was ‘well-trained’ in kayaking so we had a bit of training before going into the water.

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It was easier than I thought and the paddle wasn’t that heavy. After doing it for a while, though, my arms started to hurt. Haha. I kinda thought it was a great upper arm exercise. Hehe. We didn’t stray far away from the beach coz we were both scaredy cats. Haha. Au tried it next and Ayen had to go with her coz she was also a first timer. After taking a shower and packing up, we got ready to leave.

The only thing left to do was to buy pasalubongs. I honestly didn’t know what to buy. I’ve always thought that traveling is the only me time that I have – the only time that I can be selfish – so I don’t buy that much pasalubong whenever I travel. I just bought the famous dried and salted fish – danggit and the rice cake cooked in bamboo—binunguey.

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 ^ I’m just fascinated with turtles. 🙂

       I’m not gonna talk about the trip back home coz it was too exhausting and extremely infuriating. I thought it would be smoother and shorter since it was a Monday and not many people are going to Baguio. I was wrong. We waited for more than an hour for a van but it didn’t come so we had to take the bus. The traffic jam in Dagupan was just terrible.  I fell asleep and woke up so many times but we were not yet there. It made me wish we had a car and that I could drive. Haha.

Visiting all those phenomenal places in Bolinao made me realize one thing. I should either get swimming lessons or invest in a life vest or a life buoy. Or maybe bring my own life guard. Haha! I really really wanted to take the plunge in the waterfalls or dive in the clear waters of the cave. But I couldn’t. T_T This trip also opened my eyes to the natural and breathtaking beauty of nature. I wonder why people feel the need to destroy and vandalize such wonders. I’m lucky that I was able to see them before they become too commercialized and sullied by inconsiderate tourists.

 

Exploring Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia

Our visit at the placid and little-known city of Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia was definitely full of firsts and wonderful surprises. If you are looking for some fantastic tourist spots, towering buildings, crowded landmarks, huge and sophisticated shopping malls then Miri is NOT the place for you. LOL. Be warned that whatever I say in this blog are simply my thoughts/opinions/reactions so it’s up to you if you’ll believe it or not. XD

Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia is sort of like a hidden treasure; an uncharted place that deserves more publicity. When I booked my super cheap flight to this city, I thought to myself ‘what would I possibly do in a boring old town like this?’ I did some research but I was still not that satisfied. I still thought it was dull and lifeless.

Come December 26, 2013, my friend (Celine) and I started our journey to this foreign land. First, I have to rant about the crappy service of Air Asia. If you’re going to book a flight and you want a comfortable, hassle-free trip, NEVER BOOK IN AIR ASIA. It was my first time using this airline and I was disappointed like hell. Our flight was supposed to be at 2:25 PM but we were able to leave NAIA at past 4 PM. If you have a detailed itinerary and limited time, like us, this is probably the most annoying thing that could ever happen to you. We had to make some last minute change of plans because our ETA was moved to a later time. >_< “Consistency” must be Air Asia’s motto or something coz on our flight back home, the flight was also delayed *rolls eyes*. I got home super late and super pissed off because of that. So yeah, beware of Air Asia — cheap flights = crappy service.

Moving on…

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We arrived at the Miri International Airport (yep, they do have an airport ^^) at past 5 PM and we encountered our very first dilemma — we only had Philippine peso with us. Of course we thought about having our money changed here in the Philippines for more convenience but it was right after Christmas and we were both too busy packing up and meeting relatives, etc… Bottom line is, we found out that they only buy Singaporean, Bruneian and US Dollars. Good thing Celine decided to bring some of her extra Singapore dollars from our trip there  last June so we were able to exchange it for some Malaysian Ringgit. I only had 5 RM from my stepmom and I doubt that could take me very far from the airport. If anything, I could only afford 5 packs of Kiss Me candies XD (More on the Kiss Me candies later ^^).

The airport is big but don’t worry, you won’t get lost. First thing you need to do once you get your RM ready is to buy a taxi coupon at the highly conspicuous “taxi coupon counter”. Just tell the helpful ladies at the counter where you want to go coz the fee is different for every destination (of course).  In our case, we asked around and another helpful lady told us that we can have our money changed at Bintang Megamall downtown (which was one of our tourist destinations the next day). The taxi coupon cost us 30 RM. We were so worried that, seeing as it’s a small city, the malls might close earlier than usual. Luckily, the trip from the airport took us about 10 to 12 minutes only. The traffic in this city was unbelievable! It does not exist! XD The roads and streets were so damn clean and almost empty. Right at the entrance of Bintang Megamall, on the right side, you can see the money changer. There’s another one inside and I think it’s more ‘certified’ or something but they don’t buy Philippine peso. Racist. LOL.

So after changing our money, we decided to take a quick tour of the mall and grab some quick dinner before heading to our lovely hotel. The mall was quite small but I loved the grocery coz of the small “food court” beside it. They had really cheap foods and bread. Celine bought some sort of stir-fried noodles for only 0.99 RM while I bought some kaya balls (5 pcs./ 1.50) and chocolate waffles (2.50).

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I love Mountain Dew so when I saw these I immediately bought them. We don’t have these flavors in my country. ^^ It’s 1.59 RM each and we also bought some red bean bread, 3 pcs. for 3.29 RM. We went looking for Italiano Ice Cream coz, apparently, you can have your name (or any name) written on your popsicles! Pretty cool, huh? Sadly, we couldn’t find it so we just gave up and rode a cab to ParkCity Everly Hotel (Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Lawai). My friend and I came to a decision that since there’s nothing much to see in Miri, we should just stay in a pricey hotel for one day and then a cheaper hotel the next day. We wanted to have more relaxation time. The taxis were queued up right in front of Bintang Megamall and from there to the hotel, it cost 18 RM.

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There’s only one thing I can say about the ParkCity Everly Hotel — AWESOME. I highly recommend it. We booked a room (with free breakfast buffet) at the Executive Floor and we were treated like princesses. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful, the ambiance was great, the room was fantastic and the pool was pretty cool. I loved everything about this hotel.

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I suggest that you check in early, though, to enjoy the freebies and other amenities (like the Executive Lounge ^ where you can drown yourself in soda, tea, coffee and cookies + use the PCs and TV for free).

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^ Out and about the hotel.

Another reason that I despised Air Asia — I would’ve enjoyed this hotel more if the flight was not delayed. Ugh. >_<

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Anyway… the moment I saw the bath tub, I thought THIS IS IT. I’ve never had a bubble bath coz bath tubs are not very common in my country. Or maybe, just in my household. LOL. So I grabbed the chance and took a nice, long, relaxing bath before going to bed. 🙂

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^ The beach at the back of the hotel. 🙂

DAY 2 

We woke up early to take advantage of the breakfast buffet. LOL. I mean, we paid for it, right? So we should be able to eat as much as we want. We were the first ones in the dining hall and frankly not a lot of people came after an hour or two. The breakfast buffet was so worth the time and money. Too bad we weren’t able to fully enjoy it coz we had to get going if we wanted to take advantage of the pool as well ^^

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My fruit platter~ :)

My fruit platter~ 🙂

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^ THE breakfast buffet. BURP!

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^ Enjoying my bacon~

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^ Loved the pool at the hotel with the “mini-bar”  ^^

At first I was a bit hesitant to don my never-been-used two-piece swimsuit coz most of the people swimming in the pool were children and Muslim women. But then I thought, ‘oh what the heck’. So yeah, at some point during our swimming time, I took off my see-through topper and exposed some skin. Keber. LOL.

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Anyway, after packing up and taking a quick shower, we checked out of the hotel. I seriously didn’t want to say goodbye to this wonderful hotel. T_T I will definitely come back and enjoy it more~ Another great thing about ParkCity Everly Hotel is the fact that you can leave your baggage with them for a certain amount of time while you tour the city or do some other stuff. So we headed out and experienced a bit of a dilemma with the transportation system in Miri. WARNING: During our three-day stay in Miri, we never figured out how the transportation system works. We’re not sure if the bus trips are every hour, every 2 hours, or depending on the  driver’s mood XD There was a bus stop a couple of blocks away from the hotel and that’s where we waited. After about 15 minutes, a bus finally arrived! We didn’t really know where it was headed but we rode it anyway. Believe me, it is impossible to get lost in Miri. The bus fare to town was 1 RM and luckily my hunch was right – the final stop was at the City Bus Terminal near Park Hotel. When in doubt about your location or whereabouts, just ask the bus or taxi driver to take you to Park Hotel or the City Bus Terminal. These are two helpful and conspicuous landmarks.

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^ Coz of the smoke from the incense, Celine’s cam’s lens fogged up. 

Our first stop was Tua Pek Kong Temple, the Chinese temple which was located nearby the fish market. I’m not really a fan of historical sites, temples or museums so I wasn’t that impressed. Plus the weather started to become really, really hot. As in, scorching hot. Anyway, we were able to try the panoramic cam thingy on Celine’s cam and it came out great. 🙂

Panoramic view at Tua Pek Kong Temple

Panoramic view at Tua Pek Kong Temple

It kinda looked like we were together in this pic… XD We had a lot of fun shooting this. ^^

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Next stop, just walking distance from the temple is the famous fruits and vegetables market, Tamu Muhibbah.

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We didn’t take any pictures here coz… well, there was nothing really much going on. Actually, we kinda noticed that NOTHING GOES ON around Miri. It’s a sleepy, small town, but not really boring. Celine and I would often joke about how ‘lazy’ the people are. Especially in Tamu Muhibbah. Some people were having their late lunch or taking naps so our presence were clearly disturbing them. Haha! Instead of the noisy, rowdy and crowded market that we were used to, it was a quiet and peaceful one. You don’t need to worry about aggressive sellers shoving their products under your nose. I guess the people in here are too rich to even care about selling or making money. Haha. Okay, I’m not saying they’re all sloths, to put it simply, they are a bit laid-back as compared to other people…

We didn’t really buy anything at Tamu Muhibbah coz it was really freakin’ hot and we needed to go back to the hotel, get our things and head to Taman Awam Miri or the Miri Public Park. We took a taxi at the City Bus Terminal again and asked the driver to drop by ParkCity Everly Hotel to get our things then head straight to Taman Awam Miri. It cost 40 RM. Again, we had no idea how the taxi driver computed our fare. Celine and I therefore conclude that there is no logical explanation for the computation of the taxi fare. XD But here’s our formula:

Distance x number of passengers + time ÷ / x the mood of the driver = taxi fare 🙂

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^ I just love this super long hanging bridge! ^^

I was really looking forward to this one coz I saw the pictures on the net and I loved it! However, the scorching and prickly heat burned out all our energy. By the time we finished walking the long hanging bridge, we were both sunburned, sweaty and exhausted. We picked a bench near the kiddie pool and hogged it for a while as we ate our red bean bread from last night. ^^ Actually, I thought we could take a swim at the pool but after seeing how it was only knee-deep, and most of the swimmers were kids,  we decided against it. I badly wanted to take a shower though coz it was so freakin’ hot.

20131227_145543 20131227_145613 20131227_145724 20131227_145720^ The seahorse overpass bridge 

The most torturous part of this trip happened when we left the Miri Public Park. We were told that there was a bus headed to the city and we just had to get to the opposite side and wait. We were not told that we had to wait for like an hour before the freakin’ bus arrived! Gosh. And there was no proper waiting area, okay, it was just under the crosswalk bridge (near the seahorse statue).

So the bus to the city was also 1 RM each and once again we alighted at the City Bus Terminal near Park Hotel. Two taxis were in queue nearby but when we talked to one of the drivers and asked him to take us to Venice Inn (our 2nd and cheaper hotel), he hesitated coz he was not familiar with the area. It was a good thing Celine printed out a map which showed the exact location of Venice Inn. And then there was this really kind middle-aged lady who looked at our map and talked to the old driver for us. We could tell that she was trying to convince the old man to take us there. However, her convincing powers were not so great. It seemed like the old man was either too scared to get lost (in his own city) or he was simply too lazy to find our hotel. Haha! After more than 5 minutes of negotiating, we just gave up and waited for another taxi. That’s when we met the BEST TAXI DRIVER IN MIRI, Mr. Ah Heng. 🙂 He passed by and luckily his passenger got off at the City Bus Terminal. So we showed him the map and explained a bit and he said ‘OKAY’. Finally! Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult to find Venice Inn, but it was a relatively new hotel so maybe the locals were not so familiar with it. Mr. Ah Heng was, apparently, used to tourists in Miri so he offered to take us wherever we want to go the next day for 150 RM. We were a bit hesitant at first and we just told him that we’ll think about it. ^^

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^ Our small, cheap room at Venice Inn

I’m not gonna lie, it was a complete letdown after ParkCity Everly Hotel. Haha! Well, duh.  Of course, every other hotel would be bleak and ugly as compared to ParkCity Everly Hotel! XD Okay, maybe I’m promoting it too much. So we finally got our much needed shower and rest at Venice Inn. We had a laugh watching Malaysian TV, especially the TV show about celebrity gossips and news.

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We took a walk and explored the ‘neighborhood’. We found some popular spots like Mega Hotel, Ming Cafe, Imperial Mall… We thought we could walk from our hotel to the Miri City Fan so we did… apparently, our batteries were still not fully charged and it got dark faster than we expected.  So we were just following this long and seemingly endless sidewalk (along North Yuseng Road) when all of a sudden, it was gone. As in, the sidewalk was GONE. Bigla na lang syang naputol and there was no sidewalk in sight. We were just about to go back and give up on the Miri City Fan when we decided to cross the road and there it was! We found it! Haha! It was right there all along. XD

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Sadly, my information was incorrect. NOTHING GOES ON around Miri City Fan when the darkness comes. Hahaha! There were still lights and everything but I guess it was more majestic and pictorial-worthy in the morning.

So we walked back, passed by the Imperial Mall where we found the amazing Kokoberry right near the entrance. This amazing ‘rainbow ice cream’ cost 3.80 RM each (the prices depend on the flavor or add-ons) and it totally refreshed our exhausted body and soul. Haha! I love love loved it! It’s a must try. I didn’t get to take any pictures coz I was too busy gulping it down. LOL. Anyway, they also sell the Kiss Me candies that I was talking about earlier. Each pack contains 10 pieces of candies for only 1 RM! Amazing, right? It’s the perfect pasalubong! There were different flavors – cherry, ginger orange, blueberry, etc.

Right outside Imperial Mall is a street food stall. Although everything looked fine, I was still hesitant to try something ‘new’ and unfamiliar. I asked the seller about each of them but they all seemed to be either made from chicken or fish. Celine bought some fish cake and I bought some good ol’ chicken nuggets. ^^ They each cost 1 RM. WARNING: They don’t have a variety of sauce, only hot chili sauce.

We saw a place called ‘Checkpoint’ right across Imperial Mall and we assumed that it was some kind of grocery. So we went there to buy some pasalubong na. The prices were okay, I guess. I don’t really have anything to compare it to though. However, the Kiss Me candies in there cost about 2-3 RM (can’t remember exactly) ^^ So it’s cheaper to buy it at Kokoberry. 🙂 I bought these from that grocery store.

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After taking another shower and a bit of rest, we went out to get some dinner. We wanted to eat at some hawker food stall or something but then Silverspoon Cafe Restaurant, which was just walking distance from Venice Inn, caught our eye.

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I had the spicy pork and luncheon meat meal (8 RM) and an iced lemon tea (2.80 RM) while Celine had the skewers combo (18.90 RM) and an iced green tea (2.80 RM). Yep, it’s a bit pricey but we just wanted to splurge coz frankly, we didn’t spend that much during this trip. I anticipated a lot of expenses but I still had a lot of money until our 3rd day. Haha!

DAY 3

After eating too much at Silverspoon Cafe Restaurant the night before, I forgot to set my alarm for the next day. So we were not on schedule coz we were supposed to be headed over at Lambir National Hills Park by 7 AM. Another funny thing was, we never really texted Mr. Ah Heng about the tour that he offered so we didn’t confirm anything. However, while getting dressed, I kinda thought that maybe he came. So I peeked outside and his taxi was there! Celine and I hurried because we thought he might have been waiting for more than 30 minutes already. ^^ Another lesson learned: Some people in Miri might be lazy in doing their jobs, but some people are true to their words and extremely diligent. Haha! If they say that they’re gonna be there at 8 AM, then they are REALLY gonna be there at 8 AM.

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^ That’s Mr. Ah Heng  beside Celine 🙂

Anyway, Mr. Ah Heng was really nice even though we were late. We just asked him to take us somewhere where we take away some coffee and bread but he took us to Sun City Cafe and even shared some sweet rice cake delicacies with us.

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Celine and I ordered some Kaya Toast which were sumptuous and black coffee. 🙂

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After that nice breakfast, we started our 40-minute trip to Lambir Hills National Park.

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I guess we went there a bit early that’s why there was no crowd or anything. But then again, there are NO CROWDED places in Miri. And NO TRAFFIC. 🙂

So the entrance fee was 20 RM if you are a non-Malaysian adult. They will give you a map and you can ask the nice lady at the window about anything, like the easiest trail or the best waterfalls. She told us that it’s better to try the trail to Latak Waterfalls coz it is the easiest and it’s only a 20-minute hike. We didn’t have enough time coz we had to get back to the hotel by 12 noon to check out. I can’t remember well but I think we started our hike at half past nine.

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^ The first and second waterfalls.

WARNING: Be careful of the mosquitoes. They bite. LOL. It’s better to wear leggings or pants and long-sleeved shirts. I was wearing shorts and of course my legs were attacked by those pesky mosquitoes. Watch out for gigantic, mutant ants too. Hahaha! I swear they were huge! It was like they came from Chernobyl or something. LOL! Too bad I didn’t get to take pictures of the Chernobyl ants coz I was too busy avoiding them.

So… we made a little bit of a mistake/detour… Okay, I made a mistake. Halfway through the trail, there was a sign that said Latak Waterfalls, Tree Tower, Blah blah Waterfalls… Long story short, we should’ve continued on our path straight ahead but we took a ‘wrong turn’. ^^ We climbed up these endless (not to mention STEEP) steps coz I thought it would take us to Latak Waterfalls. Apparently, it would lead us to the Tree Tower. Yep, we climbed all those steps just to climb a huge tree tower. Well, we decided not to climb it anymore, of course. We headed back down and took the RIGHT path to Latak Waterfalls.

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^ At least we saw the Tree Tower. Hehe.

When I saw the waterfalls, all the exhaustion, heat and sweat were instantly wiped away. It was so worth it. PLUS we were the only ones in there. We had it all to ourselves. 🙂

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So, of course we did what we had to do. We had fun doing the panoramic picture thingy again. Hahaha! We stayed there to cool down and bask in the breathtaking view. If only we had more time, I really want to see all 15 water falls.

Celine, me and our minions. LOL!

Celine, me and our minions. LOL!

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We were supposed to drop by the Grand Old Lady and Petroleum Museum over at Canada Hill, which was supposedly a must-see in Miri, but we had to check out of Venice Inn before 12 noon so we told Mr. Ah Heng to just take us back to the hotel. Not a big fan of hills and museums anyway. Haha! 

After a quick shower, we checked out and headed to the famous Ming Cafe at Jalan North Yuseng Road.  For the first time since we arrived in Miri, we finally met a fellow Filipino! Haha! So we were checking out the menu and I asked the pretty waitress in ENGLISH “How big is the Roti Canai? Is it big enough for two people?”, then she smiled and replied in Filipino “Maliit lang po yan.”  I looked at her and laughed and I was like, “Pinoy ka pala teh!” XD XD XD It turned out that she was new, I think she had only been working there for 6 months… or less. I bumped into her in the ladies’ room and she told me she used to work in Brunei then she visited Miri for like a week, decided to try her luck and applied at Ming Cafe. She got accepted JUST LIKE THAT — without even a resume. Haha! That’s how easy it was to get a job in Miri. XD

Moving on, we ordered our food which was a bit overwhelming. WARNING: They have big servings at Ming Cafe. I think you can share one order with another person… unless you’re really starving. ^^ I ordered the pandan chicken… I think. ^^ And I honestly can’t remember what Celine ordered, but of course we took a picture. LOL. The mint tea is a MUST! It’s sooooooo minty. Haha! And of course we got ourselves some Roti Canai (cheese) which was freakishly HUGE. It is so not for one person lang. We were so full and we didn’t even get to finish our Roti Canai!

14 20131228_124652^ The freakishly huge Roti Canai 

The Pinay waitress from Ming Cafe told me that we can buy souvenir and other stuff at the arts and crafts center below Mega Hotel. The entrance was a bit small and not very noticeable.  Inside they have lots of key chains, pens, figurines and other mementos. You will notice a lot of SEAHORSE coz it’s Miri’s emblem. Don’t ask me why. We tried asking some locals ‘why is it seahorse?’ Nobody could give us a straight answer so we gave up. XD

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Another thing that you should know about Miri, it’s soooooo difficult to get a cab anywhere. I mean, there was a queue of cab right outside Bintang Megamall but that’s the only place where we saw an abundance of cab. It’s like everyone in Miri has a car and there is a scarcity of cabs downtown. Or anywhere, for that matter.  Luckily, we were able to get one in front of Mega Hotel and headed for the airport where our Air Asia flight back to Manila was DELAYED once again. This time it was delayed for more than 2 freaking hours! OMG. How consistent. >_<

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Thus ends our adventures in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. It was very enjoyable, affordable and pretty exciting for me. I’m willing to go back to explore the other tourist places and to finally finish the trail at Lambir Hills National Park. ^^

Exploring The City Of Gentle People and The Mystic Island

My trip to Dumaguete City and Siquijor City last week was not good. It was not great either. It was the BEST 3 nights and 4 days of my life… so far. I’m not much of a travel blogger so I’ll probably just share some of the highlights of my trip and some random thoughts, reactions and comments here. But first, there are three things that you must know before perusing this blog entry. It is crucial that you know these to be able to comprehend why I did what I did or why I did not do what I was supposed to do. ^^

  1. I cannot swim. I cannot even float. My body seemed to be made up of rocks or something. -.-
  2. I had my period. The moment I set foot in Dumaguete, it came out. Seriously, I wanted to punch my uterus or whatever for being such a pain – literally. I waited for it the PREVIOUS week coz I know that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this trip but it just had to come out on the first friggin’ day of my wonderful vacation. Ugh.
  3. I have a terrible case of motion sickness, specifically, seasickness.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll start my rant.

So I kinda intruded on a family trip. I have this 3-day vacation from work (coz of the Korean Chuseok holiday) and I really wanted to grab this chance to travel somewhere by myself. I ended up joining my high school friend and her family on this Dumaguete-Siquijor trip. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and the next thing I know I was on a plane to the city of gentle people. The weather did not cooperate well so my flight was delayed. The pilot could not land the plane at the Sibulan airport due to the rain, low clouds and zero visibility or something like that. We had to stay up in the air for a while and we were informed that if we were not cleared for landing, we might have to land at the Mactan airport in Cebu. It was my first time to experience that sort of thing and I was traveling alone so yeah, I was pretty edgy. When we finally landed, I flagged down a tricycle but was immediately disappointed when the driver told me that his rate was P150. Wagas. I was warned by my friend and she told me I should only pay P50 so I tried another one but he was asking for P120. Even though it was drizzling, I decided to walk up to the airport’s gate and luckily I found a tricycle that did not have a problem with my good ol’ 50 pesos.

Anyway, we stayed over at Harold’s Mansion which is a backpackers’ haven. Not only is it near the airport, it is also accessible, convenient and cheap. Plus, you get free breakfast – coffee/tea/choco and toasted bread. The dishes on the menu are pretty decent and not overpriced. BTW, coffee and tea are both unlimited – you could drown yourself in coffee/tea all day long. It could not get any better than that.

FIRST DAY:

Dumaguete Tour

 

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Silliman University: Of course our first stop was the famous Silliman University. According to Wikipedia:

“SU is an American private research university in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, Philippines. Established in 1901 as Silliman Institute by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, it is the first American university in the Philippines and in Asia. The university is named after Dr.Horace Brinsmade Silliman, a retired businessman and philanthropist from Cohoes, New York who gave the initial sum of $10,000 to start the school.”

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Highlight: The long queue of parked motorcycles, scooter bikes and Vespa outside – all owned by students. It’s like; if you don’t have a motorcycle you are not part of the ‘in’ crowd. Haha! I would love to study in that university just so I would be forced to buy a motorcycle too. And possibly get a driver’s license. LOL.

The main point here is to take a look at the Anthropology Museum. However, we arrived there at around 4 pm and the ‘curator/student’ told us that it’s already closed. The sign on the door clearly says: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Umm, dude, it’s ONLY 4 freakin’ PM and you’re closed?! Got somewhere to go? Plus, she should have just let us in coz we came all the way from Manila (well, I came all the way from Baguio XD). Anyway, the amusing thing is we went back the next day at around 8:30 AM just to make sure that it was already opened. It was still closed. We waited until 9 AM and the freakin’ curator never came. WHAT.THE.HELL. Do they open the freakin’ museum, like, ever?!

Major in Peace Studies. Kewl. XD

Major in Peace Studies. Kewl. XD

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MOVING ON… Of course we had to take a picture at the I LOVE DUMAGUETE sign along The Boulevard.

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Then we went to this resto called Kri to grab a bite to eat. I was still full from my bacon & egg brunch at Harold’s so I just ordered this tapioca & cheesecake.

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Well, it was pretty weird and I’ve never tasted anything like it before. I don’t mean to bash it or anything but the food in that place was kinda overpriced, IMO. I didn’t like it that much. We went back to Harold’s to take a rest and a power nap. After that, we decided to visit Café Antonio.

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Unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there. Too bad. I was looking forward to it coz I heard they serve delicious and affordable dishes. Anyway, we just headed over to Sans Rival – the home of the popular delicacy, Silvanas. I LOVE THIS RESTO. Like, seriously. Everything is perfect: the ambiance, the lighting, the chairs, the music and OMG the cakes! Haha. Plus, the food was affordable and sumptuous!

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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

 Sans Rival Spaghetti – for only P38, I got to taste heavenly pasta with the right amount of sauce and meat.

Pritchon – it’s got crispy letchon bits, a bit of veggies, taco wrap and an assortment of sauce. Perfect appetizer.

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Silvanas – OF COURSE. When in Dumaguete… go figure. I highly recommend the chocolate silvanas. I’ve tasted the ordinary silvanas before but it was my first time to taste the chocolate ones and they were divine.

Cakes– now, if only I had enough space in my stomach (AND more money) I would have eaten my heart out. I only got to try the mango cake, Concorde and the dates & walnuts. The best one was the latter.

 

HAYAHAY TREEHOUSE BAR & VIEWDECK

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Now if you’re ready for some night out with your pals, this is the best place in town. They serve a variety of dishes – from seafood to pizza and pasta. There is also a cozy sushi bar. Plus, the band that was playing when we were there was absolutely AMAZING. We all fell in love with the vocalist’s voice. I would marry that guy for his vocal abilities. Hahaha. It’s a very chillaxing place to hang out.

SECOND DAY:

While having breakfast at the comfy rooftop of Harold’s, we received some bad news. It was not raining BUT the wind was too strong (perhaps due to the typhoon in the northern area) so the waves were also too big. The boat trips to Apo Island (where we were supposed to go snorkeling) were cancelled.  Change of plans. We decided to head to Siquijor already. Which turned out to be a bit of a bad decision. Haha. Well, when they said the waves were big and strong they were not fucking kidding. We rode this small ferry boat and I was already fretful about this coz REFER TO #3. Yeah. So I swallowed two Bonamine pills and braced myself. I had my barf bag ready and I also bought a bottle of water coz I read some motion sickness tips over at the port’s waiting area. It says you have to close your eyes, keep your head still, drink lots of water and choose a seat in the middle or at the back of the boat. Unfortunately, the locals (who probably read the tips as well) already occupied the seats at the back and in the middle so we had no choice but to sit up front and boy was that the worst seat ever or what.

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Long story short: the boat ride took forever and we all concentrated and tried our best not to vomit all over each other. I swear, even someone with a strong stomach could not withstand that wave-y boat ride. It was terrible and I would NEVER, EVER,  do that again. >_<

  SIQUIJOR CITY

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So I heard that this mystic island, which is known for witches, voodoo, potions and black magic, was yclept by the Spaniards as  “Isla del Fuego”, “due to the intensity of fire flies”. It looked pretty normal, at first; lots of trees, less houses and no tall buildings or establishments. We hired a multi-cab which took us to JJ’s Backpackers Inn.

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It was pretty decent and the beach was fantastic. I had some ‘me’ time and even took a nap on a very comfy hammock by the beach.

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It was so windy the whole time we stayed there. I could practically hear the howling of the wind along with the rustling of the leaves of coconut trees.

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After eating lunch we started our Siquijor City tour. First stop was the Capilay Pool. Nothing really special but I thought it was pretty cool that they have a public pool like that. It’s a cool place to hang out with your family and friends on a weekend, I guess.

Lazi Church and Convent

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Photo op time~ If you’re into ancient structures and churches, which are probably infested with spirits and termites, then this place is a must-see. I was amazed at the huge wooden doors and the stone walls which were made out of corals. I really wanted to go up the bell tower… and probably ring the bell but it was closed.

Balete Tree & Fish Spa

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I love this pic! Stolen pics are the best 😀

When you think about something scary, a Balete tree would always come to mind. So we dropped by this ginormous Balete tree which towered over a small pond-like stream where you could just sit, dip your feet and let the fish feast on the calluses.

Cambugahay Falls

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I was looking forward to this coz I saw some pictures of the famous Tarzan jump into the water. However, REFER to #2. So yeah, I thought I would not be able to do it coz of that. But as I watched my companions do it one by one, I was like, “I have to try it too.” Another problem is, I am confident about jumping but not about swimming. REFER to #1.

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However, one of my companions brought a life buoy so I borrowed that. I really wanted to do the whole Tarzan thing – swinging a bit by holding onto the vine before jumping into the water – but I couldn’t coz I was holding onto the life buoy. T_T Anyway, I was able to do it and when I emerged from the water, I immediately hugged the buoy.

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Me jumping with my new BFF– the buoy XD

I was so scared of losing it and drowning. Haha! The thing is, I was supposed to kick a bit and swim towards my friend’s mom but for some reason, no matter how much I flail and kick, the water kept on bringing me backwards – near the falls and away from the bank. I kinda panicked at that time. I thought I was gonna drown or something –even when I was hugging the buoy tightly. LOL. I was saved by my friend’s brother, eventually. XD I wanted to try jumping from the top of the falls but I thought better of it. Plus, we did not have enough time to do it.

Salagdoong Beach – CLIFF JUMP!

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This was something that I was extremely excited about. The jump at Cambugahay Falls was sort of a practice, I guess. I watched some videos of this cliff jump and I thought, “Oh, it’s not really that high.” But when we got there – ohmygosh, it was definitely HIGH. And of course I had to think about #1 and #2 all over again. >_< I swear if only I could swim, I would have jumped without thinking about it.

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All my companions already jumped and they were assisted by my friend’s brother who was waiting below with the buoy. I REALLY, REALLY wanted to jump. It was something that I wanted to try ever since I found out about it. And I know I wouldn’t be able to do it anytime soon coz I won’t get a chance to visit this city again in the next 6 months or so. L But when it was my turn, it was already getting dark and my friend’s mom (since I’m under their responsibility and she knew I couldn’t swim) stopped me. She said we needed to go so we did… I have to admit; I was a bit frustrated and depressed then. I WANTED TO JUMP! I’m not brave about a lot of things but I don’t have a fear of heights! AGAIN, if only I could swim, I wouldn’t have hesitated back then. T___T

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MOVING ON…

The ride back home was fun at first coz we kept on recalling our ‘jumps’. However, we found out that there was a black out in the city. So the roads were really dark. If it was just an ordinary city, I wouldn’t really mind. However, knowing what Siquijor is known for, I was totally creep-ed out. Plus, it was so quiet and there were no other cars or transportation on the road. There was also this high-pitched sound following us and I’m pretty sure those were bats. I was relieved when we finally arrived back at JJ’s. I didn’t get to sleep that well though. I was kinda worried that we’d get stranded in that island coz of the typhoon and then there’d be no electric power and then… yeah, I kinda have a wild and overactive imagination. LOL.

THIRD DAY:

We got an early start and headed to the port the next morning. Luckily, we were riding a bigger ferry boat now so it would not be like the first boat trip. I didn’t need to worry about getting seasick and vomiting my lungs out. I was so happy to see Dumaguete again. I would love to go back to Siquijor but next time I’ll make sure that there is no typhoon or low pressure area or whatever.

APO ISLAND SNORKELING!

No matter how many warnings we get about the big and strong waves in the sea, we still pushed through our plans. Haha! Originally, we were supposed to take the snorkeling package at Harold’s (1K includes the boat ride, transpo to and from the ‘port’, light snacks, snorkeling gear). It was so sulit compared to the others. BUT… due to the  weather condition and unexpected circumstances, there were lots of changes in our plans. We ended up renting two tricycles to take us to the place where we can rent a boat (forgot the name ^^). Anyway, the waves were okay at first but they got really NASTY in the middle. It was so freaking windy as well. Now I know how that boy from Life of Pi felt. XD

I experienced snorkeling before. It was in Batangas, I think. I remember the first time I was thrown out into the open waters with nothing but my life vest on and my snorkeling gear. I was terrified out of my wits. It was better this time coz we just ‘walked/swam’ towards the ‘snorkeling site’. Still, it was so hard for me to use the snorkeling gear and breathe through my mouth. I could only stay underwater for like 2 minutes. After that, I’d start swallowing some water so I have to go up for some air and remove my gear. -.-

Moreover, I seemed to be swimming BACKWARDS. XD The snorkeling guide would let me float by myself so I would start flailing my arms and kicking, hoping to move forward as I marvel in the awesome coral reefs and fish below me… BUT every time I try to ‘swim’ I would move backwards, instead of forward. Sometimes I won’t even budge from my place. Am I that freakin’ heavy?! >_< The two snorkeling guides were having a ball as they watched me struggle with my backwards swimming. Ugh. I did enjoy it, despite the fact that I totally failed at swimming and I swallowed A LOT of sea water. Too bad we weren’t able to see the sea turtles on the other side of the island coz of the strong winds. 😦

The boat trip back was even worse than the first one. There were 8 of us so we took two boats and they seemed to be engaged in this amazing race. Or maybe they were just in a hurry to get us home since it would be sunset soon. I changed into some dry shorts coz REFER TO #2. But it was a bad idea. The speed of the boat + the humongous sea waves soaked the hell out of us. We were dripping wet when we arrived on the other side. It was quite an experience, though. ^^

We were all dead tired from the trip to Siquijor so we took a nap and just stayed in our rooms until it was time to buy pasalubongs. As luck would have it, the pasalubong center was already closed. -.- So we just panic-bought silvanas at Sans Rival and then headed over to Hayahay for our seafood dinner. After that, we went back to Sans Rival for some coffee and cake. I swear it’s my fave resto ever. Haha.

FOURTH DAY:

Highlight: Our flight was more than 30 minutes delayed coz of the heavy rain in Manila BUT… we saw a sort of celebrity in the boarding area. It was Ramon Bautista. I’m not really a FAN but I’ve heard of his books. My friend and her siblings asked to take pictures with him and he agreed. He was really funny. ^^ There were also these two guys who suddenly came up to my friend’s sister and asked about her tats on her wrist. They started chatting and since they were not cute or attractive, I just ignored them. XD I found out later that they were actually the drummer and guitarist of this Pinoy rock band – which shall remain nameless. Haha! I didn’t recognize them without their vocalist. LOL.

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It was the most turbulent flight I’ve ever experienced so I just kept my eyes closed and listened to some music.

I had some frustrations and regrets. I wished and hoped for a lot of things. I hated being a woman because of # 2. I got annoyed, scared and anxious. But the most important thing was I had a wonderful time. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this sort of happiness – the kind that would make me think and look back on the memories. I guess I need to start exploring other local cities before I plan my next out of the country trip.

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A little memento from my snorkeling trip at Apo Island 😀

My Wicked Weekend in Singapore

It was indeed the WICKED-est weekend I’ve ever had in my entire 25 years of life on earth! Three of my dreams came true while I was in Singapore. I’m still spazzing like a crazy fangirl right now. It was such a great adventure and experience for me and it still seemed so surreal.

First, I was able to travel to another country. That was such an accomplishment for someone like me – an independent young woman in her early 20s who’s living away from her family and who’s only been working for merely 2 and half years. Moreover, I barely have 20k in my bank account. I still can’t believe I was able to do it. I was hesitant at first of course. I jot down all my expenses and my savings and computed again and again until my head hurts from all the numbers. My main purpose of traveling, at first, was to watch the Super Junior concert in SG. But that would mean I have to spend more because of the ticket prices. So in the end I canceled my plans and told my friend (who was the one pursuing me to go with her since she’s going to watch the concert as well) that I have to bail out for now coz I’m not yet financially ready’.

But then, last January, just before my birthday, I woke up one afternoon and checked my twitter. The said friend was still insisting that I come with her since another friend of ours is also coming with us and her RT flight from Clark only costs about P3,800 only. I dunno what went over me. It was definitely an impulsive decision. I just said “Okay, GO.” After realizing that I cannot be absent for two days from my two part time jobs, I re-booked my flight which made me spend more money than I intended to. T_T Damn you work! I had to buy another P2,500-worth ticket for Saturday early morning instead of my orig RT ticket which was Friday noon. Furthermore, instead of departing from the airport which is nearby my hometown (around 5 hours by bus), I had to go all the way to NAIA airport in Manila (around 8 hours by bus). Just thinking about all those traveling involved exhaust me.

It was my first time flying International, mind you, so I was absolutely terrified and keyed up at the same time. I have no idea what to do first and where to go. Good thing I have my friend with me. ^^ So our flight was at 6:20 AM and we checked in at around quarter to five. I traveled in NAIA 3 before but that was domestic, my flight this time is international and its in NAIA 1.

I just have to say, there are three things that I am totally NOT looking forward to the next time I travel.

  1. The grumpy and snooping immigration officers. They don’t smile, they’re so damn stern and serious. Get a life. You’ll get old soon guys. Especially the ones in SG. I was unfortunate enough to get the grumpiest and snappiest of them all. It was this old man who kinda looked gay to me. The other I.O. (immigration officer ^^) called his attention, so naturally, I turned my head to look at her as well. Then, in a SNAPPY and ANGRY voice, the I.O. in front of me said “HEY! HEY LOOK AT ME! YOU LOOK AT ME NOW!” I was taken aback by the attitude. Chill, dude, I’m not impersonating someone and I’m totally not avoiding eye contact with you. I just couldn’t bear looking at your BB Cream-ed face. XD
  2. The damn embarkation card. My friend and I were making fun of someone (I’d rather NOT namedrop ^^) for taking a long time in answering the embarkation card before. We thought, “How stupid could he get? It’s so easy to fill up.” But we were wrong. Well, for first time flyers it is kinda confusing in some way. And there are actually lots of info to be provided. Like my passport number, date I received the passport, date it will expire, the address of the person I’m visiting abroad and some other info that I couldn’t think of right then and there. I had to check through the papers that I have with me and take a peek at my passport for that. It was kinda stressful. Haha. To our chagrin, we needed to answer ANOTHER card, this time a disembarkation one, before we land in SG. Wow. Just how many embarkation cards are there?
  3. Gigantic American seatmates who snores LOUDLY and who seemed to have halitosis. Yes. Unluckily for my friend and I, we were put in the same row as this humongous American who sat in the aisle (coz I have the window seat ^^). So we have to get through him before we can visit the loo. I had my mp3 on and I was trying to get some sleep during the three-hour flight but I could still hear him snoring REALLY loud. If that isn’t enough, I could smell something stinky coming from him from where I was seated. UGH.

The first thing I did when I set foot on the soils of SG was… SMILE. I want to enter and leave the country with a smile. ^^ The weather was pretty much the same as the Philippines but it was much tolerable. What I noticed the moment I got on the SMRT (their subway train which, by the way, was simply fantastic and very helpful) was the fact that SG has such diverse set of people and culture. It was like the melting point of mixed races and nationalities which are poles apart. Indeed, it was sort of overpopulated by Filipinos, but other than that there were like 5 other dominant races – Singaporean, Bangladesh, Indian, Chinese and a bit of Japanese as well. It was so amusing that it felt like I was in a United Nations conference or something. 😀

One thing I love about this country was how progressive and advanced they are. Particularly their transportation system. I was so amazed by how disciplined and organized the transportation system was.

They have this EZ Link card that can be used for both bus and SMRT (and even at McDonald’s and 7-11). My cousin, who lives there, even told me that one time she left the house with nothing but that EZ Link card and she was able to eat and get around the city with no troubles. Imagine that! I love tapping out that card in the subway turnstile and before and after I get on a bus. It was very convenient and pretty cool for me. ^^

I really envy their country for having this structured system, which is why there is less traffic in the streets. It also makes the people more disciplined because they cannot just ride or ‘alight’ a bus anywhere and anytime they want to. They really have to wait for the specific bus with specific route at specific bus stops. If they missed the bus going to where they are supposed to go, they have to wait for the next bus with the same route OR find another route. It was so beautiful. Haha. I’m so in love with their transportation system.

EMBARRASSING EXPERIENCE ALERT! Well it was more like humiliating. ^^;; My first time to ride the bus, we were in a hurry coz the bus was about to leave so we ran after it. I was the last one to get in and in my haste I forgot to tap out the card. I also forgot what my friend told me about the people using “Hello” as a substitute for “Excuse me”. So I just walked inside and ignored the driver who was “Hello-ing” me. XD My friend told me that I forgot to tap out so I have to go back and do that. ^^;; Talk about embarrassing.

Another thing I like about their buses and subway trains are the ‘RESERVED SEAT’ part for the elders, pregnant women, children and disabled. I know we also have that in the Philippines but the ones in Singapore seemed more legit and people seemed to really avoid this seat. I felt uncomfortable when I sat at it once even though there were no elders or pregnant women around whom I had to give it up to.

On the upper deck of the double-decker bus ^^

And OMG the DOUBLE-DECKER bus! I was literally jumping up and down when I saw that and I couldn’t wait to ride on it! It was totally a ‘dream come true’ when I finally got to ride in one – it felt like I was in Harry Potter or something. ^.^  I really, really wish our bus system gets upgraded. Actually, I wish they’d give the transportation system a face-lift. That way we can avoid traffic, road accidents and people would not cross the streets anywhere and anytime they like.

THE FOOD.

Like I said, this country is so diverse that you can also find traces of other nationalities in their food. There’s a variety of choices so you won’t really get tired of the old Singaporean food. But of course I had to try out some of their famous meals. Chicken rice and Pepper Rice were both sumptuous.

Chicken Rice + Chestnut Water~

^ Chicken Rice~ 

 ^  The Indian Prata – pancake bread with different curry sauces

 The latter was kinda spicy for me though. I wanted to try some of those Indian Prata but they were out of stock when I ordered it. 😦  I noticed they have lots of noodles; there was even a stall in the food court where you can pick a variety of toppings for your noodles. I’m not a noodle person so I didn’t try any of that.

 ^ Pepper Rice

 

I tried one of their drinks called CHESTNUT WATER and I loved it! ^^

I found this really cool parody of the Philippines’s JOLLIBEE fast food restaurant. It’s called JOLLIBEAN. Haha. They sell some bread and flavored soybean shakes. I tried it and it’s pretty good. 😉

When it comes to houses, they are quite organized as well. They don’t have a lot of real ‘houses’ – like Desperate Housewives-type of houses. All you can see are apartment complex and I love that setting. It was just so organized. OKAY, I gotta stop comparing it to my country… hehe. I just really hope that by the time I have my own family, my country would be as progressive as Singapore.

FIRST DAY.

We went to this upscale and high end place called DEMPSEY HILL. Nothing much to see over there. Unless you’re blond and you have a Ferrari  or a mini-cooper or something. ^^

We had fun at Ben and Jerry’s though. The root beer that I ordered – which really looked like beer – totally quenched my thirst. I hated the weather that day. It was cloudy but for some reason it feels muggy and I was sweating.

After that we started ‘mall hopping’. The malls were pretty cool but I wasn’t really that amazed once I saw the inside. Of course the façade was fantastic, but inside, it was just like any other shopping mall. I kinda got tired from all the walking so I felt a little grumpy and moody by the end of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE SHOPPING and all that but I can only tolerate much. PLUS, I didn’t really go to SG to shop. If I’m gonna buy clothes, shoes or bags, I’d rather visit my favorite secondhand stores in my city. ^.^ Plus, everything is expensive in SG. I couldn’t really complain to the people I’m with coz I’m just a ‘visitor’ and I have no right to do that.

Kaya - Singaporean spread~

ANYWAY, we shopped at FAIR PRICE before going home. That place was heaven! The chocolates, the multi-flavored Yakult and Cream-O, the NUTELLA ^^ and loads of food and stuff with cheaper prices!

SECOND DAY.

The following day, we were supposed to go to the Chinese-Japanese Garden early in the morning but we didn’t realize that the sun shines a bit later in SG. It was already 7 am and it was still dark outside! Same with the sun set, 7 pm was still bright outside. So we woke up kinda late and we just went to church. YES. I went to church. ^^;; Moving on, we went to another shopping mall (YAY…) but this time I kinda like it because I saw lots of nifty and pretty cool stuff. There was this stall that sells some pretty awesome flash disk drives with various designs: credit cards, finger, banana, animals, cartoon characters, mini-cakes and candies and other really cute things. I also got inside this shop with lots of KPOP stuff and of course I was just ecstatic. 😀

After that I had to run over to the Marina Bay Sands Theater to do something I’ve never done before – WATCH A MUSICAL. ^________^ Yes, finally I can say that I’ve seen a musical and one of the most wonderful and amazing musicals at that. It was this Broadway musical called WICKED. My spazzing and review of that deserves another blog post which can be found here.

I didn't get to see this majestic whirlwind of water in the Marina Bay but my friends recorded it ~ ^^

My dream of riding those ‘gondolas’ inside the Marina Bay Sands mall didn’t come true though coz we didn’t have time for that and it costs $10, I think. But I took some pictures. 😀 I wasn’t able to see some of the more magnificent parts of that place but I was able to enjoy my time there. ^^

THIRD DAY.

Sentosa Day. It was one great trip to wrap up our last day in SG. Although I had no intentions of going inside Universal Studios (coz it’s too damn expensive) I have to say it was definitely worth it.

 ^ Reese’s!!! MY FAVE~ 

Strolling around Hershey’s World and Candylicious felt like stepping into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It was just amazing with a capital A.

 ^ Lotsa lotsa JELLY BEANS~

We had a fun time over there but we couldn’t really visit the other tourists’ spots in Sentosa like the Merlion thingy coz my other friend and I need to catch our flight back to the Philippines. It felt sad to leave just like that but all things must come to an end. We bid goodbye to our friend and went back to Changi airport.

^BTW, I love the escalators in the subway! They would eat you up and spit you out so quickly you’d pick yourself up from the floor afterwards. Haha. They’re so freakin’ fast! Like, really FAST. So you really need to watch your step and KEEP LEFT if you are not in a hurry coz the right side is the ‘express way’ where people who are in a hurry zoom past. ^^ It’s pretty cool once you get used to it.

 ^ My last peek at SG.

And that’s the end of my wonderful, WICKED, weekend in SG. The ending was quite simple but it was magical and memorable for me. I would love to go back there but I don’t think I can do that anytime soon. I probably have to work my ass off and prepare a lot of money. 😉

 

10 Reasons why I LOVE UMKTG-P!

(UMKTG @ Punto Miguel Beach Resort in LAIYA, BATANGAS ^^)

1. They’re COOL. There’s nothing more to say. And it’s the type of COOl that you wouldn’t realize is ‘COOL’ unless you’re actually WITH them. That’s when you’ll start thinking ‘Oh, so this is what COOL feels like’. ^^

2. They share the same interests / ‘trip’. Well, that used to be the case, but of course after almost 3 years of friendship… some things were bound to change… They can still relate to each other most of the time though. 🙂

3. They never agree on the same stuff all the time. They all have different views and opinions about things. Some are outspoken, some are silent (but deadly) and some just go with the flow. This often sparks up a debate which turns into a slight argument– but nothing really serious. No catfights on chocolate mud or hurling of rock-hard muffins or something. XP

4. They get bigger and better. Friendship INDEED grows. First there were FOUR, and now there are, like, 12 or so…? It’s like a family that expands, a club that adds new members, or cockroach eggs that multiplies by the second…? XD As new members get added, more exciting adventures happen as well. ^^

5. There’s no need to boom your own flight, plan your own adventure or go on a solitary vacation trip somewhere. UMKTG will handle everything. From your destination up to the hotel reservations and even the food. :))) All you have to do is say, “YES, I WANT TO GO” and voila ~ next thing you know, you are on your way to one of the greatest and most exciting traveling trip ever. ^^

6. They bash each other’s idols and there’s no hard feelings. At least I think so. ^^ Bashing Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese/American idols/biases is as normal as breathing and eating for UMKTG members. They even bash their OWN idols. They say that when you love someone you have to accept them for who they are. You have to be aware of their flaws… and you have to make fun of these flaws every now and then. XD

7. There is NEVER a boring time with them. Except when they’re all fast asleep. XP They are all hilarious in their own way.  You have to fully appreciate each and everyone’s sense of humor before you get to be ‘in on the joke’.

8. They engage in healthy and serious conversations.

Here’s a typical UMKTG ‘kamote’ conversation:

Ate Tam: Ano na nga ba yung sinasabi pag nakatapak ng tae ng aso?
Anne: Ewww…?
Ate Tam: Hindi!
Celine: Beh, buti nga,,,?
Anne: …kadiri…?
Celine: Yuck…?
Ate Tam: …
Celine: Ang tanga mo naman…?

^____^

9. They can be pa-sosyal and palaboys at the same time. They’re like chameleons– put them on a black background and they’d turn black. Put them in a pink environment and they’d turn pink. ^^ They can deal with all types of people– but not too much commoners ok XD — and they can cope with any sort of situation. More to the point, they are SHAMELESS. They don’t give a damn about what others think. In Tagalog, makapal ang mga mukha. XD They are indeed SURVIVORS.

10. They are UMKTG. It’s as simple as that. They have different characters, different personalities, different status in life, different family background, different heights, different weights, different tastes in guys, different professions, different schools, different hairstyles… different biases in Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, But deep inside, they are one and the same. They are all UMKTG at heart. They are Ubiquitous Multiply Kedermek Triad Girls- Palaboys. :)))) Once a palaboy, always a palaboy.

AND YES, “KAMOTE” is the trademark UMKTG expression. Well, Celine invented it so we all adopted that. We OWN it.  XD