Third Time is the Charm, Vietnam: The Halong Bay Cruise

It was my third time visiting Vietnam;  apparently, I enjoy going there. Haha. Well, actually I’ve visited Ho Chi Minh twice, first with my family, and the second time with my friends.  Still with my friends, this time we visited the northern part of Vietnam, Hanoi, where Halong Bay can be found. Halong Bay is declared as one of the recent 7 Wonders of Nature. This is my second of the 7 Wonders of Nature, the first of which I was able to visit was in my hometown, the Puerto Princesa Underground River. That visit actually inspired me to add a goal for myself, which is to visit all the 7 Wonders of Nature before the age of 30 *crossing fingers.
 So it was really good timing the JE decided to book Hanoi during one of the Cebu Pacific Seat sale. I think we booked it as early as March of this year, and the fare costs us only about P3500. This time, JM volunteered to arrange the itinerary for our tour. She was able to find a travel agent, the Halong Phoenix Cruise, which provides Halong Bay cruise plus hotel accommodation in the city. The package only costs about $170 per person, which includes the cruise with complete meals and tour, plus one night accommodation in Asian Ruby Hotel in Hanoi.
Finally November came, and we left Manila on a Saturday evening. Funny thing during the flight, as Cebu Pacific hosts games for passengers. The game was to name three things that start with the letter, and when they asked name 3 colors that start with P, J was the first one to raise his hand. He was able to give Pink and Purple, but got stuck for a while. IV tried to help, and gave… guess what? Puschia!!!! LOL. Epic Fail!!! I actually thought of Prussian blue but was not really sure if there’s such a color, good thing J was able to think of Peach. Yey! He won a travel pouch. The other question was a female name that ends with O, and IV was the chosen one. Again, he was an epic fail, and couldn’t think of anything. I helped him and gave Rosario and Mercado, and JM thought of Chikito. Hahaha. Good thing they accepted it as the last 2 names are actually not female names. Haha. Continue reading here.

The Adventures of 2 Girls in 2 Countries - In Between

I wanted to have a separate entry for this as this one of those experience I'm sure I will never forget and learn from, especially on traveling.

So we left Universal Studios at around 9pm which we thought would be enough time since our train will not leave until 11:30. What we didn't foresee was everyone else was going home and there was a long queue for the train leaving Universal Studio. Before we know it, it was already past 10pm when we reached our hotel. We just immediately packed our bags and checked out. We tried waiting for a bus, but it took us a long time, so we tried to hail a cab. We didn't have luck on that either as the taxis we're not stopping or didn't want to let us ride as the train station was just really nearby. We had no choice but to wait for our bus again. We then ride the MRT again until Woodlands, which is where the train station is. The MRT ride took forever and when we finally arrived at Woodlands it was already 11:30. What's worst is that we don't know where exactly the train station to Malaysia is.

We asked some of the cab drivers, and they don't know it as well. Finally one cab driver knows and so he brought us there. And when we arrived, the train has already left. Apparently, they're not following Filipino time, which is always late. Haha. I was kinda expecting it. We then asked one of the crews there and he suggested to ride the bus and try to catch the train on its next stop. We did that, and to our dismay, we're still not able to catch the train. What was worse, was that I didn't know we already had cross the border, and we're now at Johor Baru in Malaysia. Continue reading here.

The Adventures of 2 Girls in 2 Countries - In Singapore

The bus ride from Malaysia to Singapore takes about 6 hours. We traveled via Nice bus which was booked for us by N. The bus was very comfortable, with ample space and reclining chairs. Food was also provided, mainly just some sandwich and water. M and I were asleep for most of the trip. There were 2 stops, one in the Malaysian Immigration and the other one in the Singapore Immigration, where they had to stamp our passports and checked our luggage. The processing was smooth, and the officers didn't even ask me anything. After about another half hour drive, the bus drop us off on one of the bus stops on beach road. It was about 6 in the morning, and M and I realized we didn't have any local currency yet. First fail of the day. Haha.

We were suppose to exchange our money to Singapore dollars in the immigration but it slipped our mind as we didn't see any money changer.  There was a shop where crews are cleaning up so we ask them if there's any money changer nearby. They said there is, but it will not open until around 9 in the morning. They were actually Filipinos, but they were not too friendly. M wanted to pee, so we ask them that and the girl said she could pee inside but she didn't look too happy about it. They should not have mentioned they were also Filipinos, because I was expecting them to be helpful and friendly, but they weren't. Anyway, since we were in front of the Parc Hotel, M and I decided to try our luck there. Good thing the receptionist was a Filipino again, and this time she was very helpful. The hotel is suppose to just allow currency exchange to their guests, but since we're Filipinos she allowed us. We just exchanged our $50 for the meantime, just enough for us to get by for the meantime. Continue reading here.

The Adventures of 2 Girls in 2 Countries - In Malaysia

Or better yet to say, MISADVENTURES. Haha

M invited me to go with her in Malaysia, since one of our teammates was a volunteer in Shell Eco Marathon Asia which is being held in Sepang Circuit. Since there was a seat sale in Cebu Pacific, I agreed to go with her. Our flight cost about Php 4800 each for the round trip.

We left Wednesday night, and arrived at the KL Low Cost Terminal at half past midnight. N, our Shell MY colleague, picked us up since we're gonna stay with him to save up on hotel accommodation. We stopped by to eat some snacks first in like one of their hawkers, before going to N's house in Puchong. His house is big for a bachelor, with 2 or 3 guestrooms. We stayed in one of the big guestroom where M and I shared a bed. We slept at almost 4 in the morning, then woke up at around 7 since N said we should be leaving at 8.

We left N's house at about past 8, then stop at one their hawkers again for breakfast. N then dropped us off the Sepang Circuit to check out the Eco Marathon. We were supposed to join in the pit walk where guides will tour as around the circuit to see the different areas. They noticed that I was wearing a sandal, they said I need to wear safety shoes so one of the tour guides tried to look for safety shoes for me. He bought us in one of the rooms to wait, but when he returned he said we couldn't join the pit walk since we're also wearing dresses, and they are requiring guests to wear pants to be able to go inside the pit. Haha. He was really really sorry and I said it was ok and we might just go shopping to buy pants.  First fail of the day. Haha. Since we can't go inside, we just went to the 2nd floor in the viewing area.

Shell Eco Marathon

Shell Eco Marathon Sepang Circuit

Shel Eco Marathon Testing Pit

Shell Eco Marathon Pit
 After much strolling around the areas we're allowed to, we ran to one of our colleagues S. She volunteers to take pictures of the pit for us, and call our teammate L as well. We invited them to go to Genting  Island on our last day since N suggested we do that. We exchanged numbers and went our separate ways. Continue reading here.

Puerto Princesa Underground River: My First of the New 7 Wonders of Nature

My last day in Palawan started way early. I had to wake up a quarter before 5 since our tour guide will pick us up around 5 in the morning to go to the underground river.  Good thing J and I decide to take our baths the night before so we didn't have to wake up early. The hotel agreed to pack our breakfast for us since we didn't have time to eat breakfast. We had to check out that morning since after the tour, we're going straight to the airport.

So our guide pick us up at around 5 in the morning and hit the road to the Underground river. The drive lasted almost 2 hours, consisting of long zigzag roads going up the mountain. I thought we're going to an underground river, why are we heading up the mountain? About half an hour from the river, we stopped at a souvenir shop and carinderia. We decided to eat our breakfast there.

After almost half an hour drive again, we have arrived at the port where we'll ride the boat going to the underground river. I think the office is still close, as it was not yet 8am when we arrived there. We waited for awhile before we were boarded to our boat. It was only about 15 minute boat ride to reach the Underground river. The scenery going there was beautiful with view of the mountain and some rock formations.
Sabang Bay

Finally, we arrived at the underground river. We transfer to a small boat carrying the 6 of us, plus 4 of the guys that we're in tour with, plus our tour guide who paddles the boat. The ones sitting in front will be the designated navigator, which is actually the one who will carry the lamp. Continue reading here.

Welcome to the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Mouth of the Puerto Princesa Underground Cave

Puerto Princesa, Palawan: The Honda Bay Tour

Second day of my Palawan tour is the Island Hopping Tour. We woke up early to eat breakfast at the hotel, it's actually a complimentary breakfast. Breakfast consists of either American or Filipino breakfast served ala carte. While there's also other choices in the buffet such as some bread and omelets.  Since I'm not really a breakfast person, I just ate some scrambled eggs and pandesal, plus the fruits served with the Filipino breakfast.

Legend Palawan Breakfast

After breakfast, our tour guide for the day picked us up. Our first stop was the gear shop, where we had to rent some snorkeling gears, and aqua shoes as it was not included in the package. Rent of the Snorkeling mask is Php 150, plus the aqua shoes is another Php 150.
The first island we visited is the Pandan Island. The beach was really beautiful, with fine white sand and clear water. The water is really good to swim into, not too hot nor too cold.  After swimming for a while, we decided to try out snorkeling.  So we got our life jackets and snorkeling gears and headed out to the area where most people seems to be snorkeling. Continue reading here.

Pandan Island

Pandan Island Beach

Puerto Princesa, Palawan: The Shortest City Tour Ever

My trip to Palawan was actually planned by one of my friends in college. S was able to buy a deal in Metrodeal for only Php 6000 per person, if I remember correctly. Vouchers are really getting popular here in the Philippines, which I'm not really sure is a good thing, since it's so tempting to buy every deal they offer on impulse, which in the end makes you spend more.  Anyway, our deal included airfare, hotel accommodations and tours which included lunch, not bad.  The drawback is the Underground River tour was not included, so we had to pay additional Php 1500 for the tour.

It was a very good timing to go to Puerto Princesa, since it was just recently declared as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. I really wanted to go, before it gets more expensive and more people visiting.

We left Manila on Thursday morning. Our flight is scheduled to depart at 7:30 am, but of course it got delayed again. We rode the Airphil Express, which is one the budget airlines here in the Philippines, even cheaper than Cebu Pacific. The plane is ok,  not too small like what we are expecting. Like the Cebu Pacific, the airfare doesn't include food so you have to buy food from their carts if you go hungry. Good thing, we bought donuts while we are waiting to be boarded.

We arrived at Puerto Princesa at about half past nine in the morning. It was cloudy when we got there, and my friends told me there's actually an Intertropical Convergence Zone so there's a pretty good chance that it will rain. We were fetched by our travel agent and we rode their van to drop us off to our hotel. Our hotel is the Legend Palawan, how posh. Hahaha. Well the truth is, we are actually just staying at their budget hotel called Pads, which is also in the hotel building. The rooms are smaller, and simpler I guess, but we are free to use the hotel amenities and includes daily breakfast, so that's cool. We are not particular about our accommodations anyway, since we just use it for sleeping. As long as there's a bed, an air conditioner and a TV, we're ok. Continue reading here.
The Legend Palawan


Adventures at White Island, CDO and Bukidnon

The next day, we woke up before 5:30 in the morning to go to White Island. We ride a boat to get there which costs Php 400 for the 4 us, already included in the Php 3900 that I paid Teddy. We also bought breakfast from Teddy's sister, consisting of longganisa, ham, dried squid, sunny side up egg and rice, for Php 100 each. We brought that to the island to have our breakfast there. 

 The White Island is literally just a small island of white sand. Not as fine as Boracay's sand, but fine and white enough. Connected to it is a sand bar, which disappears when the tide becomes high. We tried to stay there to have some exclusivity, but the water rises quickly and we had to go back to the main island after eating our breakfast. The water was clear and cool, but there were so many small stones and remnants of corals on the sea floor that it's hard to walk. So we just swim, even if the water is too shallow. The water is not deep even if you're already far from the shore. We saw some small fishes, and one of the tourist said he also saw some jellyfish and star fish. We were surprised when J told us that a snake swam through his leg. We got scared so we decided to go back to our cottage since it's already time to leave Camiguin. Continue reading here.

White Island Camiguin

CDO-Camiguin Tour

This is my first time traveling to Mindanao, and first stop would be in Cagayan de Oro. It was Piso Fare offer in Cebu Pacific that got us to travel to CDO, booked way back February of last year?? Together with all the surcharges and taxes, our fare just came down to almost Php 600 per person.  A few weeks before our trip, we were supposed to just hire a travel  agency to book everything for us, but the practical side of me took over and decided to try to book the tours and accommodations. Being so busy with work, I decided to just POAT on Pinoy Exchange Forum on CDO thread asking for itinerary. Luckily, Noel Greene responded to me. I'm not sure, but I think he is the owner, or co-owner, of Manage TravelTours in CDO. It's a little bit complicated as Noel resides in Ireland, while his brother-in-law resides here. They provide the transportation service/tour within CDO and to places nearby such as Bukidnon and to port going to Camiguin. Noel also booked me in Victoria Suite Hotel, a cheap hotel in CDO, and gave me contact to book our Camiguin Tour. They've also arrange our White Water Rafting and tour Dahilayan Park in Bukidnon.

Finally all was set and our day of departure finally came. We met up about an hour and a half before our flight leaves, since we were hungry, we decided to eat first. We felt relax that we just went to the boarding area about 40 minutes before our boarding. The crew told us to wait first as she was going to check if we can still be boarded. WTF? All of us were speechless for a moment there, and when the crew let us pass through, we were so relieved and found it hilarious at the same. We didn't know what to do if the plane left us. About 1 1/2 hour later, at almost 5 in the afternoon, we finally arrived at CDO.

Emero, Noel's brother-in-law, picked us up in the airport and drove us to Victoria Suite Hotel. The hotel was nice enough for sleeping and taking a bath, it's clean  but small. For just Php 900 for twin sharing, one can't expect a lot from it. Emero was kind enough to drove us around the area to see where we could hang out. Since it was late in the afternoon, we really don't have time to do anything much, so when we saw a cute small bakery, Missy Bon Bon, we decided to hang there to eat. It was a chic bakeshop, with different cakes and breads, plus gelatos and some other dishes. Must try is their Macaroons and Pistachio Gelato. Although, it's a little bit pricier than the other flavors, at Php 100 per scoop, it's the best pistachio gelato I have tasted so far. Continue reading here.
Strawberry Short Cake from Missy Bon Bon

Surfing in La Union on my 25th Birthday

Since it was my 25th birthday, and I thought that 25 is already a very old age, I wanted to try out something new. I know I'm over-reacting when I say that 25 is a very old age, but I just feel like I'm having another stint of  quarter life crisis, questioning myself, my choices, and where I want to be.  So I decided to invite 4 of my core friends to celebrate my birthday with, my "posh" gang as we like to brand ourselves. Haha. The first plan was actually to go to the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Pampanga to ride the Hot Air Balloon, but since they 're not yet willing to pay about $150 each, I decided we just go surfing since we had that plan since last year. 

My brother already went surfing in La Union, so I decided we just go there since my surfer friends also told me that La Union is the surfing spot for beginners. Being the assigned travel planner and since it was me who invited them, I had the task of looking for a place to stay and I just have one week left. The most popular surf resort in La Union is the San Juan Surf Resort, where they house the Billabong Surf School. I think it is owned by Luke Landringan, the guy in the Highlands Corned Beef commercial. Haha. We plan to leave Manila on Friday afternoon, and go back by Sunday afternoon, so I had to book 2 nights accommodation. Turns out, San Juan Surf Resort is already fully booked on Saturday, so I had to find another resort.  My next choice was the Sebay Resort, but when I made an inquiry, they were also fully booked on Saturday.  Wow, many people are already into surfing. So back to searching again, I found Kahuna Resort, but their rates were a little expensive compared to the others, more like rates for foreigners. But I must admit, their place looks really posh and relaxing. Finally I found Costa Villa which is quite new in that area. They don’t have a website yet, but I found their Facebook page where their contact number can be found. I just sent a text message to them at +639162751884 to make an inquiry, and they immediately called me up to attend to my inquiry. The owner was the one who called me up, so if you want to contact him directly, you can call him at +639178432386. The room good for 4 cost Php 3150 a night, but since I told him we're gonna check in late, he gave me a discount and the room only cost me Php 3000 a night, with breakfast included for 4. He gave me their bank details where I deposited 50% as down payment for the reservation.  Finally, this is really going to happen! Continue reading here.


Post Christmas Getaway at Zambales

Every year my family and I make it a point to go the beach. This year, this annual thing happened quite late, but it was still a time well spent. My brother suggested to go to Potipot Island, which is in Candelaria, Zambales. It's much like Anawangin Island where there's no resort situated in the island, and not even electricity. It’s just an island, literally, with just a few huts and comfort rooms.

So my family headed to Zambales, Monday morning, a day after Christmas. We took the NLEX route then SCTEX. We left home at about past 9 in the morning, and was able to reach Subic at around 12 to have lunch first. We had lunch at Aristocrat, then headed to the road again. It was like another 2 1/2 hours more of driving to reach Candelaria, Zambales. 

We finally arrived at Candelaria at almost 3 in the afternoon. Since my family really didn’t want to camp out on Potipot Island, we stayed at Dawal Beach Resort at Calendaria. It’s a pretty decent resort, one of more high-end ones, relative to the other resorts in the area. They have different types of room, from Standard rooms, Pool side rooms and Penthouse. We rented 2 Standard Rooms, good for 3 each, for 2 nights. The room is for Php 4000 a night I think, with television, air condition and hot & cold shower. We also checked out the Penthouse, which is already good for 6, but it has only one bathroom and television, so we decided to just rent 2 separate rooms.

After checking in our rooms, we decided to head out to the beach for a swim. It's almost sunset then, so it's not really hot and sunny. The beach is ok, the shore is long with water that is not too deep. The only drawback is that the sand is black, so it looks like mud, but the water is clear and clean.  Continue reading here.

Dawal Beach Resort Shore at Candelaria, Zambales