Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘places’

Question: What is an island on a lake in an island on a lake  in an island on an ocean?

Answer: Taal Volcano

 

 

Taal Volcano up close

 

Taal Yacht Club in Talisay, Batangas

Getting near Volcano Island

That’s how our tour guide slash bangkero described Taal Volcano as the motorized boat leaves the Taal Yacht Club in Talisay, Batangas. We reached the Volcano Island in minutes and from the boat, we saw the Tagaytay Ridge. “For a change we’re viewing Tagaytay from Taal,” I told my officemates, smiling as our other colleagues took a photo of us from another boat. “I hope this volcano doesn’t act up while we’re here or we’ll swim for our lives.” 😀

the welcome party at the foot of the volcano

so near yet so far

no pets allowed in our hike

Taal Volcano, said some online sources, now seems a small volcano but it used to be one of the world’s largest, towering 18,000 feet into the sky. Small as it may seem, the hike to its crater rim wasn’t very easy, but it was enjoyable. We chose to do the walking trail instead of riding horses, which we felt would take away the fun in the experience. We were so right. The hike took about an hour and we stopped several times to either take photos or simply enjoy the view.

enjoying the view after a long hike

taking it all in

The view from the rim was breathtaking (after all that walking? why not! Haha) as much as it was calming. Not content with the the view, we decided to hike down to the crater lake and yes, we swam in its sulfuric glory. Haha. 🙂 It was good for the skin, the tour guide said, but it was bad for the clothes. Haha! I didn’t mind it—the experience of swimming in a volcano’s crater lake made it all worth it. I just wished I could kayak my way around it, like I did in Coron, Palawan.

rushing to swim in the lake

the island on a lake in an island...

Our stomachs were our guide to stop swimming and take the hike back up to the crater rim and then down to the foot of the volcano. The boat ride back to Taal Yacht Club was like a roller coaster ride, no thanks to the nasty waves that made my officemates repent for their sins on the spot and prayed to all the saints they know 🙂

I got quite scared alright but I chose to enjoy the moment while it lasted: I sat near the front end of the boat, talking all the face-slapping from the waves, occasionally closing my eyes as I listened to the mad waters, as if asking for more, telling myself that no amount of exhaustion or worry or fear should take away the fun in this nature adventure.  And boy did I enjoy it.

Taal Volcano crater lake

Read Full Post »

One of the things that I look forward to in my job is out-of-town travels not only because I can take a breather from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila, but I can also visit new places and experience new culture. And the best part is, it’s almost always an all-expense-paid trip 😉

Some weeks back I went to Davao City in Mindanao, south of the Philippines, for a brief 3-day business trip. Though the limited time didn’t allow me to visit the more popular tourist attractions like Samal Island and Philippine Eagle Center, among others, I still made the most of my first visit to Davao. 

Davao

  • Considered one of the world’s largest cities with a land area of 2,443.61 square kilometers
  • Ranked 10th in the Asian Cities of the Future by Foreign Direct Investment Magazine
  • Typhoon-free; balmy weather year-round
  • Home to the world’s largest eagle, The Philippine Eagle, which is also the country’s national bird
  • Named one of the most peaceful cities in Southeast Asia for its low monthly crime rate
  • Home to the world-famous waling-waling, considered one of the world’s most beautiful orchids, making it the “Orchid Capital of the Philippines”
  • Most celebrated fiesta is Kadayawan sa Dabaw Festival, which happens every 3rd week of August
  • Once home to Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, found in Mt. Apo

Durian

Davao is also home to the famous durian, popular in Southeast Asia as the ‘king of fruits,’ but usually banned in hotels because of its distinct smell 😀 

And visiting Davao won’t be complete without trying the durian. But instead of eating the fruit, I opted for the ice blended durian coffee called durian larcepuccino, which you can buy from any of the Blugre Coffee branches in the city. I went to Blugre’s branch at the Matina Town Square—a hotspot for food, booze, and live band—just across Ateneo de Davao University.

durian in a coffee

durian in a coffee

Dare

A must-do in Davao City is the XCelerator zipline at the Outland Adventure (address: Diversion Road, MAA, across the GAP Farm; tel.nos.082/224-5855 and 082/271-6067).

Outland Adventure is the largest ropes course facility in the Philippines and its XCelerator Zipline is the only US-certified zipline in the country that’s also the longest speed zipline in Asia.

The adventure is made more fun because before the actual zip ride, you first take a 10-minute uphill hike (bring a bottle of water!) and ride a bamboo raft to cross a lake.

bamboo rafting (credits to outlandadventure.org)

bamboo rafting

a thrilling ride

a thrilling ride

upside down adventure

upside down adventure

Photo credits: outlandadventure.org

I took the “Superman” ride and enjoyed flying over the lush greenery and a large fresh water lake, feeling the cool rush of wind on my face as I shouted “I’m aalaaaaiiivvve!”

And travels—like the one to Davao—give me that same kind of feeling that I’m truly alive; of an experience that’s more for the spirit than for the body and mind.

Read Full Post »

so natural, so magical

Summer for me begins in February, when not many think of hitting the beach or traveling to their favorite destination. At least not yet. And that’s the best thing about it. I can have the place to myself or share it with some few others who are smart enough to travel before the sign says “peak season,” which means long lines at the airport and shrieking hobbits with their parents at the resort. I’m a people-person, but I shun crowded places when I’m on vacation.

So imagine my excitement when some great friends agreed to go to Coron in Northern Palawan last February. I thought it was the perfect timing for a great summer destination. And Coron didn’t disappoint.

Gateway to a 'wow' experience

Gateway to a 'wow' experience

Discovering Kayangan

Discovering Kayangan

Inviting waters of Kayangan Lake

Inviting waters of Kayangan Lake

So clear you can see its 'soul'

So clear you can see its 'soul'

virginal Banol beach

virginal Banol beach

Twin Lagoon

Twin Lagoon

Los Siete Pecados

Los Siete Pecados

Hot soak at Maquinit Hot Springs

Hot soak at Maquinit Hot Springs

kids at Maquinit Hot Springs

kids at Maquinit Hot Springs

Coron town

Ala-Hollywood

Pigs not allowed :)

Pigs not allowed 🙂

there's peace in solitude

there's peace in solitude

View from Mt. Tapyas

View from Mt. Tapyas

sunset in Coron

sunset in Coron

back to land

back to land

another day is over

another day is over

As I said, nothing amazes me anymore now. But Coron did, even without trying—its sights are almost magical, the people are nice, the whole experience is priceless.

 

And there’s a certain kind of calmness to it that not many tourist spots in the country can offer. The kind that makes you want to come back to experience it all over again, and so much so because you can’t find that sense of calmness anywhere else, not even at home.

Read Full Post »

 i usually spend my Saturdays in UP Manila where i teach part-time, but because it’s already sembreak i had the time to go to Subic to visit my relatives at the Zoobic Safari. Hahaha!

zoo-gud sa zoobic. Hahaha!

zoo-gud sa zoobic. Hahaha!

My relatives missed me so much they held a welcome parade for me, as shown in photos below. But the effort wasn’t enough to compel me to get closer to them—as with my human relatives, i believe it’s healthy to keep some distance, to be familiar strangers, to be concerned only when necessary. i’m speaking from experience 🙂

Granny Goose and company

Granny Goose and company

Looking for desert

Looking for desert

mini Zorro

mini Zorro

who came first?

Evolution of Man: who came first?

rush hour

rush hour

Marlboro country hahaha!

Marlboro country hahaha!

My sister dissuaded me from going to Zoobic Safari, convinced by her friends who said that the place isn’t worth it. After seeing it myself, i can say that her friends were right: the place wasn’t worth it, but the experience was.

The place is sorely lacking in proper upkeep–some animal cages are in poor condition, some animals don’t look very healthy; i actually felt some pity for my relatives. The nice thing, though, is that some animals can freely walk around, my favorite of which are the ostriches on the way to the Tiger Safari.

Run, ostrich, run

Run, ostrich, run

Talking about the Tiger Safari, you have to pay Php200 for the chicken used as lure for the tigers to go near the jeepney. Without the chicken, the tigers will ignore you (unless they are extremely hungry and you extend your hand out) and thus it would be a boring close encounter with the beasts.

White tiger up close

White tiger up close

hungry beasts

hungry beasts

ang sarap ng hilaw na Chickenjoy!

ang sarap ng hilaw na Chickenjoy!

Can't get enough of hilaw na Chickenjoy

Can't get enough of hilaw na Chickenjoy

The walking tour of the Serpentarium and Rodent’s World was quite enjoyable. The close encounter with many other animals in their supposed natural habitat was also quite  an experience. But I didn’t like the Animal Muzooeum, which to me was tacky through and through; they could have done so much better with this museum.

Can sound like purgatory to some

Can sound like purgatory to some

ang pagong o ang matsing?

Sino ang mas matalino: ang pagong o ang matsing?

Daddy, feeding your own child to the animals not allowed!

Daddy, feeding your own child to the animals not allowed!

tisoy na tamaraw

tisoy na tamaraw

Sorry, kids, Mickey Mouse not inside

Sorry, kids, Mickey Mouse not inside

largest rat in the Philippines

largest rat in the Philippines

kaya pala maraming bubwit

kaya pala maraming bubwit

Lacoste in flesh

Lacoste in flesh

And for those who checked out Zoobic Safari’s website and got excited about the Hip-Hop Bayawak adventure where you hop over monitor lizzards, forget it. The lizzards are gone; only a turtle that seems in coma is there. The hops are, however, good for your heart 🙂

hopping for hopping's sake

hopping for hopping's sake

The Aeta Trail was also interesting, but i felt so much more could be done to the place and to the tour itself so guests will learn more and better appreciate our Aeta brothers.

not-so-distant relatives

not-so-distant relatives

Aeta dance

Aeta dance

I enjoyed Zoobic Safari because it’s not everday that i get to walk around in a mini-forest or jungle with a lot of animals (real animal, not taong animal hahaha), sans the air and noise pollution of the metropolis.  And also because the last time i visited a zoo was in high school. 😀

Before going to Zoobic Safari, i ate the hefty New York steak for lunch at MeatPlus Cafe, and so it’s a good thing I did some walking at the zoo to help burn the calories. Hehe! Before heading home, i bought some dark chocolates from the duty free shops. Well, one step forward to health, two steps back to peril! 😛

New York steak

New York steak--heavy meal even without the rice

All in all, it was a Saturday well spent because it was more than the usual.

Read Full Post »

It’s been almost a month since I went to the SM Science Discovery Center at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, but it’s only now that I decided to blog about my unpleasant experience because I thought I’d forget about it. But I couldn’t. The sentiment got stuck in me like a clingy, oversized booger—a little more effort is needed to get it out of my system.

And to expedite my permanent separation from the unpleasant experience, I’m listing down my top 3 discoveries as a result of visiting the SM Science Discovery Center.

Discovery 1: Walk-in visitors must come with their own tour guides. Throughout the tour, not a single guide attended to us. In the earthquake section, no attendant was in sight to help us experience the simulation. We had to wait for the preschool kids (who were there on scheduled field trip) to enter the room before an attendant activated the machine. Then we discovered the wait wasn’t worth it.

In the Virtual Reef section, we had to come back three times to be able to speak with Mr. T, the talking Titan fish. The first time we went inside, the attendant walked out of the booth and chatted with another attendant, despite seeing us foolishly standing before the monitor waiting for Mr. T to appear. Our second attempt was no different; the attendant simply ignored us. The last attempt was successful only because there were children in the room. We finally heard Mr. T talk, which led me to my second discovery.

Discovery 2: Dory is still the most amusing talking fish. Hearing Mr. T talk was painful because he struggled with his English, his diction was awful, and his regional accent was too obvious it diminished the animated character’s charm. I couldn’t even stand the way he responded to the questions so I stepped out of the room and proceeded to the City Science section where an attendant was discussing the world’s tallest buildings to children.

Then I heard him say: “…is considered one of the tallest buildings in the world because it has over a hundred floor. It has over a hundred floor.” A hundred floor? So is this like Pangasinan’s Hundred Island?

Discovery 3: Never settle for the second choice. My colleagues and I were supposed to check out Ocean Park, but we were one day ahead of its public opening. Disappointed, we went to the SM Science Discovery Center, which seemed the logical second choice. We were very wrong.

The Spaceship Earth wasn’t working; the environmental video projection was so blurry I tuned out after five frames. Some parts of the Transportation section were too dark we assumed they’re off limits to visitors. The Robot, Inc. section looks like a badly lit warehouse with old, defective robots.  The Lego Mindstorms Robotics Center, which I was most excited to visit because I’d be able to program my own robot, was closed.

The only saving grace of the trip was the Grossology section and the 3D planetarium show “The Search for Life: Are We Alone?” narrated by Harrison Ford. But even these two sections and Harrison Ford’s voice couldn’t dissuade me from believing that SM Science Discovery Center is overpriced and overrated.

I’ll surely get some flak for saying this because most of the online accounts I’ve read about the Center are positive, complete with charming pictures (I only used my Nokia phone). Some might accuse me of nitpicking; label my experience as an isolated case. But really, what will SM Science Discovery Center gain from hearing all good, but not knowing how to be better?

Read Full Post »

 

The drizzle that welcomed my arrival in Ho Chi Minh City failed to drowse my anticipation to finally experience Vietnam beyond the few printed accounts I’ve read about it. Those few accounts had convinced me to put Vietnam in my top 3 must-visit countries in Southeast Asia, and so arriving in the city was all that mattered to me, despite the overcast sky that looked as if there was more rain to come.

Surprisingly, the drizzle stopped on my way from the airport to Sheraton Hotel, which to me is one of the best locations in the city as everything you have to visit in Ho Chi Minh is just a stone’s throw away. Sheraton, however, is relatively pricey compared with the backpacker hotels in the area. And indeed, backpacking tourists are everywhere in the city; their numbers easily convinced me that the Philippines has truly been overtaken by Vietnam in terms of tourist arrivals. 

I don’t wonder why. Ho Chi Minh is as real as it gets. It doesn’t pretend to be cosmopolitan albeit it’s Vietnam’s largest city and economic capital. Neither does it present itself to be the fusion of all great and good about Asia, although it’s Vietnam’s cultural trendsetter with a rich history to boot. The city welcomes its guests as it is—a socialist metropolis that wears its French influence through colonial architecture in its historic buildings.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Take the Notre Dame Cathedral for example, which as a Catholic seemed the logical first stop for me. The red bricks that cover the two 40-meter high square towers add more elegance to its neo-Romanesque architecture, a motif that, in many Philippine churches, is combined with Byzantine and Renaissance designs, such as the Manila Cathedral.

People’s Committee Building

The Central Post Office building near the Cathedral is also a showcase of French colonial architecture; same is true for the People’s Committee building which, with its elaborate facade, manicured garden, and imposing statue of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh at the forefront, makes it the most prominent and most photographed landmark in the city.

Opera House

A few steps away from the People’s Committee building is the Opera House, which is also a fascinating sight. I suggest you visit it at sundown when its facade is lit up with different colors, adding a contemporary touch to its dated architecture. Right in front of it is a small park where locals, with their children, come as they are—casual and laid-back, some even look unkempt, but all seemingly comfortable with foreigners around.

Indeed, Vietnamese aren’t self-conscious. They’ve grown accustomed to tourists that they’ve made the guests their own tourist attraction: some locals would sit on street gutters at night—some in their pajamas—to watch different nationalities walk past them, offering their friendly, sometimes sheepish, smiles that make the unfamiliar place anything but intimidating and the experience far more welcoming.

In the morning, they gather in groups at roadside teashops, sitting on small chairs around a small table and enjoying their morning tea like it’s a morning ritual, oblivious to the noise and distraction from throngs of motorcycles that sprint through one-way streets.

And motorcycles are the king of the road in Ho Chi Minh, small wonder it’s been tagged the “capital of motorbikes.” Even women, some in chic attire, ride their motorcycles still looking prim and proper with their backs straight up and their clothes spotless. Beware, though, because—male or female—many motorcycle drivers in Ho Chi Minh don’t follow traffic rules. They drive up the wrong one-way streets, beat the red light, and don’t stop for crossing pedestrians, making crossing streets quite a risk to the fainthearted. But isn’t this like Manila? haha! 🙂

An interesting detour from experiencing modern day Ho Chi Minh is a visit to the War Remnants Museum where artillery pieces and heartrending photos of war victims are on display. Most striking to me were life-size model cages used to house Viet Cong prisoners and the guillotine used to behead them. This section of the museum is eeriest and most depressing, but rightly so, if only to remind every visitor that wars are really never glorious.

War Remnants Museum

The change of name from Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes to War Remnants Museum to avoid insulting foreign tourists is only one reflection of social change in Vietnam since it took “Doi Moi” (renovation, reconstruction), the period of rapid economic and political changes in the 1980s and 1990s, opening up opportunities for private enterprises, in the process boosting its economy and paving the way for the phenomenal rise in tourist arrivals.

 

On my last night in Ho Chi Minh, I was treated to a “dampa-style” dinner of fresh seafood, veggies, pho (pronounced ‘fuh’), and some authentic Vietnamese dishes, and oh boy, did I enjoy it, with free live a capella music courtesy of a group of Vietnamese yuppies at a nearby table enjoying a round of beer after a hard day’s work. Outside, the entire roadstretch is teeming with locals and tourists, drinking and eating to their hearts’ content against the backdrop of new towering buildings and many others still under construction—an indication that, perhaps, the best is yet to come for this unpretentious city with unpretentious people.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been back to Cebu only twice in seven years since I took a month-long vacation there after my college graduation in 2001. Both visits were work-related. First was an overnight stay in January 2005, a week after Sinulog, which I regretted not seeing again after so many years; decades, actually.

The only vivid memory I have of Sinulog (it’s vivid only because it sounds more and more ridiculous every time I remember it) was being asked to play the role of Sto. Nino in one of the floats for the street parade. If I were to make my toddler photos the basis for people’s reaction, then people would probably find me adorable as Sto. Nino. Haha! 

Now at 27, and having lost all my innocence, imagining myself wearing a sequined Sto. Nino dress with a gold crown on my head, a globe in my left hand, and a scepter in my right, and smiling and waving  to the crowd like I was giving them my blessing, is an imagery too outrageous and contemptible to think of that I am eternally grateful to my parents for declining the invitation. Enough of this.

My second visit to Cebu, again on work assignment, took me to Shangri-La Mactan. Early morning of my second day, I had the entire stretch of the beach to myself and I absolutely enjoyed the privilege. Waking up at 6 a.m., which is almost impossible for me to do in Manila, was all worth the effort.

        

The best meal I had in all my five-day in Cebu was the dinner at Abaca, a boutique resort and restaurant that’s a few minutes away from Shangri-la Mactan and owned by American chef Jason Hyatt, whom our group met together with his Labrador named Lola (American accent, please, haha!)

Abaca is only two years old and only serves dinner but it’s become a must-visit in Cebu, favorited by many, including expats, who have tried its California Meditteranean cuisine cooked by Jason himself and sous chef Melissa Cannons from Canada.

Abaca main dining area

abaca deck area at dusk time

Abaca deck area at dusk time

Abaca’s Anggus beef rib-eye steak is to die for; it’s the best steak I’ve had so far. I also loved its wood oven roasted chicken, braised veal served with wild mushrooms, and wood fired Pacific sea bass with cherry tomatoes. I also enjoyed the grilled vegetable pizza with thin crust and the Abaca antipasto with artisan cheeses which they served earlier during cocktails.

Even before I finished my serving of Abaca’s dessert platter of goodies plus different flavors of homemade ice cream and sorbets, I’ve already conceded to its much-hyped about reputation as the finest meal in Cebu which I’ve heard about before.

I don’t know why but after coming back from Cebu, I felt so invigorated. It always feels this way after every visit, whether it be just an overnight stay or a month-long vacation. Drowned in all the noise, the stress, the frustrations, and even in the impatience of Manila, I feel as if Cebu breathes some new life into me and I am fully alive again.  Perhaps this is what some people meant when they say that there’s nothing like coming home to one’s birthplace, to go back to one’s beginning, fleeting though it may be.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »