Wednesday, July 10, 2013

12 Years Later... Hello, Ilocos!

May 7-15, 2013 – Going back to the province where I was born and grew up sounded like there’s a huge surprise for me. Forget about the more than nine hours of travel [1 hour 15 minutes by plane + 8 hours by bus – I sure did get a butt sore!] and treat it like it’s my first time to see the place. I spent the whole day tracking my way to the north… drop off point – Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur. It’s almost 11pm when I finally reached my mom’s house – oh home!

My adventure to the north started the next day since I had to take some rest and get to meet and talk to my old folks. The place which is a beachfront has changed big time. Cottages have been side by side and there’s no more freeway to the beach for a walk-in swimmer [you have to rent a cottage, silly!]. But the sunset remains to be superb while the highest church in town is standing still.

Okay, fast forward – the first itinerary was scheduled to be in Ilocos Norte: Batac, Laoag, Burgos, Pagudpod, Patapat – just name it and I’ve come across those towns while the highlight of the trip was the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, the giant Windmills, and Kapurpurawan (white) Rock Formations. A relaxing lunch was waiting at the nearby Hannah’s Blue Lagoon with giant lobsters and grilled fish as the main course. It could be another tiring day but everything was spectacular – the places, food, people [hosts], and the government-owned SUV for free ride!

The final sight-seeing spot was Vigan City. Twelve years ago, I recall that this was a humble remote town and it didn’t receive any special treatment from anyone, but now it got its boost as the local government has capitalized its Spanish heritage buildings that turned to be one of the hottest destinations in the north. It was a walk at night to remember as I spent it with my new Swiss friend. The Heritage Park is an amazing scenery with all that Spanish appeal. In addition, the dancing fountain is another attraction that both tourists and locals love to watch.

As I only had a few days to stay, I didn’t have more time to explore further north going east but another trip for the other side of the Philippines surely lies ahead. Hopes are up for this time to come! Farewell my hometown, until next time.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Throwback 2012: All-rush in Singapore

October 20-22, 2012 – After booking my plane tickets on mid-July I was then wound up for my next trip, destination – Singapore! I know it was a very short visit so I anticipated the itinerary to be hectic – thanks to my tour guide, my good friend, Adel who was very organized with our day-to-day schedule.
First stop was at the renowned Orchard Road, where the centre of commerce is, and where people from different walks of life merge. From Orchard I was brought to not only see but enter the lobby of the most famous building in the city, the Marina Bay Sands. Inside is a spectacular architecture of modern concept savored with shops of the most expensive brand names. The Casino is amongst the highlights of the structure, and I was privileged to go inside where complementary bottled water is everywhere!

Move on to the second day – a roam to the Resort World Sentosa! Took the hop-on hop-off tram, I went to see the beauty of Singapore’s coast featuring the Palawan and Siloso beach resorts. As I recall, the weather wasn’t wonderful that very day and so we got caught in the rain and off we headed to the Waterfront, just next to the Universal Studios. Hard Rock Café was very tempting where me and my buddy ended up eating our lunch at that spot. Shopping inside the café was also a one-of-a-kind experience for me – I got souvenir shirts and a cap for an amount that I do not want to learn how much the equivalent in Philippine currency. The rest of the day was spent in Vivo City and it was a shopping spree for the shopaholic me!

Last and final day – we arrived at the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park and enjoyed a fascinating view overlooking the city. What we missed was the guided tour to the infinity pool – my ultimate goal, but it was all okay, I was able to sneak at it and snapped some shots. After the sky-hopping activity, we took a walk with another grade school friend at the Sentosa Boardwalk and headed to the Universal Studios. We were there just on time so we took our stuff off and jumped in the most crucial rides – the Battlestar Galactica and the Revenge of the Mummy – all worth screaming rides! I walked around the theme park alone while my buddy took a rest that lead me to capture some good shots of the Far Far Away Land, the Madagascar, and the rest of the attractions. Of course, shopping is always part of the trip so here we go – souvenirs, yay!

My final hour in this lively city wasn’t over yet. I needed to web check-in so I can be at the airport even an hour before my flight, and to close the wonderful deal, we got free passes to the Singapore Flyer, courtesy of Uncle Noel – what an awesome night to be seeing the colorful lights of the tall and awe-inspiring buildings in the surroundings.
To sum it up, my Singapore short visit was as amazing as ever. I missed some great places such as the Gardens by the Bay, Clark Quay, Botanical Garden, and Merlion but overall it was a superb experience. Until next time, SG!

Some tips when visiting Singapore:
  • Try not to convert every SGD to PHP, you will end up not wanting to buy even a bottled water.
  • Go to big supermarkets and find the Cadbury chocolate bars, they are five times cheaper than those being sold at the Duty Free shop.
  • Prepare an EZ Link card for easier transportation mechanic, it works both on bus and train.
  • Never forget to load your camera with at least 4GB memory card, everything in SG is worth taking picture of.
  • Do not crave for a chewing gum especially when in public areas such as park, mall, and transpo if you don’t want to get caught and fined.
  • Always address the taxi driver with respect, call him "uncle" [as if you are kins lol].
  • Finally, no worries about pick-pockets, there is NONE in Singapura.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Throwback 2012: Hong Kong Revisited

March 25-28, 2012 - I was asked which is the best South East Asian destination – Hong Kong! Yes, like I said earlier, this is a wonderful city worth spending a vacation for. Hong Kong is tagged as the “Small Paris” because of the abundance of high-end European brands. It is the centre of commerce and shopping in Asia.

So, join me for the second time as I track another route that starts with Causeway Bay area. In Hong Kong Central, Causeway Bay is known as the focal point of expensive and famous designer brands such as Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Swarovski, to name a few. Just like Los Angeles in California, it has its own street shows that attract a crowd for curiosity and fun. One exciting experience to Causeway Bay is the largest transportation called the MTR that merges several routes and a huge number of commuters. As foreigners, me and my travel buddies were ignorant of the train system which ended up us being almost lost! Whew! Thanks to the kind-hearted Filipino couple who helped us made our way out.

Once again, Disneyland and Ocean Park were amongst the coolest destinations that I have revisited. It is indeed another great experience to explore the new additions of rides so I finally hopped on my first roller-coaster encounter at the Mine Train. In Disneyland, the Parachute Drop, the Slinky Dog Spin, and the Tea Cup ride were amazing plus a second round on the hair-raising-heart-pounding-throat-blowing Space Mountain!

On my last day on the Hong Kong soil, I was able to go through the streets surrounding Lang Ham Place. What another level of grandeur vacation has just gone in my life – so call it an adventure!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Throwback 2011: A Maiden Tour - Hong Kong + Macau

March 27-April 1, 2011 - Alas! This is my maiden overseas travel, with my family. December 2010, I’ve been very excited that I even bought a new digital camera to document my Hong Kong escapade. Had an agency arranged for our tour so there was less hassle in the bookings, but it did cost us a bit expensive. On board Cathay Pacific, I was a little nervous and hyped, and finally touched down the Hong Kong territory.

First day was a good morning with a free breakfast at Mc Café. The group where we were in was scheduled for a city tour, which comprises the following drop-offs: Avenue of the Stars, On Gems & Jewelry Fty. Co., Ltd, Fisherman’s wharf at Aberdeen, Avenue of the Stars at night, Victoria Peak, and Madame Tussaud’s.

The following day, we spent it at the Ocean Park where we enjoyed some rides, a close look at the giant jellyfish aquarium, and other aquatic creatures, including the famous dolphin show. Finally back to the hotel and called it a day.

Traveling through a boat to the formerly Portuguese-colonized administrative region of the People's Republic of China, Macau added the experience as we headed to one of the tallest structures, the Macau Tower and the Amazing Venetian Hotel. The ambiance was so Italy that I forgot I was only in Asia. I was also able to spot the MGM Grand Casino, City of Dreams building, and the renowned Hard Rock Café.

The infamous Hong Kong Disneyland was never out our way – we had an awesome whole day at the theme park and have enjoyed the food, rides, shows, and castle fireworks at night to end the whole day affair. Some shopping inside a Disney shop reminds me of my shopaholic spirit that just got elated. While along Nathan Road in Kowloon, Bossini, Giordano, and Bonjour were my favorite shops.
At the end of the tour, I realized that it wasn’t only the wonderful places where we have been that makes the vacation grand but also the clean environment and the disciplined citizens of Hong Kong that made me think of going back… so be it.