My Instant Family in Ho Chi Minh City

The Situation

I had a good job back in the Philippines, the pay was adequate, too, but I felt that there’s something missing, something I have yet to find. Purpose? Mission? Maybe. Love life? We’ll see. I have thought long and hard and decided to risk everything. So I quit my job and packed my bags for the “greener pasture.” There’s only one plan – that is, to land a job in Singapore before my tourist visa expires. 24 days later, I was still funemployed at the most expensive city in the world. You’ve read that wrong – it should be f’ing unemployed. But don’t curse, kids. Leave it to the adults, especially the jobless. Anyway, I needed to exit and so I booked the cheapest flight to Vietnam. I was all down, sickly and stressed the entire time I was in Singapore. I could easily say that was my lowest point – alone and far from my loved ones. To make matters worst, I learned that our puppy died back home mauled to death by her older sister and brother. Murphy’s law everybody!

There’s a famous saying from Mark Twain:  “…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” But why do I feel like the universe is really determined to break me? Why do I feel like I made the wrong decision? A massive mistake.

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As depressed as I was, I had to move forward and pray. And by forward, I mean out of the country, else I might get deported. I prepared everything from my flights, to hostel bookings and itinerary. This way, I won’t have problems in the airport. I also posted my travel plans in Couchsurfing. I wasn’t expecting much from that app since I wasn’t able to find hosts here in SG but I was shookt with the responses from Vietnam. I got 2 hosts and a handful of local travelers willing to accompany me on my impromptu trip. I decided to cancel my hostel booking and accept Ricardo’s offer to host, I figured I can save money while living with the locals and learning their culture. I also didn’t want to celebrate my birthday alone roaming the crazy streets of Saigon.

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S A I G O N

I arrived at Saigon in a humid, Thursday afternoon, 26th of October. I took a Grab Bike from the airport to District 9. Lakas maka Hunger Games. Saigon boasts a lot of skyscrapers, soon to rise buildings (perfect for my rooftop climbs), and vast highways catering to the progressing economy of the city. The streets were overrun by motorbikes, undeniably alarming to a point when you’re literally rubbing elbows to a fellow commuter. But the riders were just chill and reserved, so I wasn’t scared at all – documenting the 22km ride through my Instagram stories. District 9 is situated 21km away from the more popular, touristy districts which only means it’s way cheaper here. Guhreat.

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Easy English Community

Finally, I met my host Ric and he introduced me to his cousins and students. Apparently, he’s a full time English teacher who rents an entire building for his company – Easy English Community.

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And yes, that’s where he lives and teaches at the same time. How cool is that? Later that night, I joined his classes and got to meet more of his students. They’re all warm and welcoming. I really felt that I didn’t deserve their kindness. This was the first time that I traveled with no concrete plans whatsoever. I just wanna get out of Singapore and get lost in Vietnam. But the Easy English Community found and took me in like I was no stranger. The following day, Paul brought me to all the famous spots in HCMC with his motorbikes, offered to treat me drinks then took me to must try restaurants and coffee shops.

I got to visit some of them in the University of Technology and Education (UTE) c/o Ric where we had small chit chats, a few get to know you’s and exchanged Ph to Vn cultures. They even greeted me a happy birthday which I really appreciated.

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From L-R: Diamond, Sally, Maria, Roger, Eric, Kid, Michael, Lufy, Paul, Dylan, David, Sarah, Julia, Ricardo, May and Richard. Whew!

The one thing I will never ever forget was the fact that Ric and his dear students prepared a mini party for my birthday, they cooked and stayed up late just to celebrate my birthday. They even let me watch them play Football.

Motorbikes in the City

The next day, I got not only one but four tour guides. They volunteered to join me as we all explore District 1. As it turned out, they are tourists in the city. Most of them didn’t have the time to see the famous spots and I was so happy they got to visit these places the first time with me. It also made the trip into an adventure slash Waze and Google maps dependent ride haha!

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Kicking it off with one of the many pagodas here in HCMC. Viện Minh Đăng Quang pagoda is such a beaut!

And then, I found out that Kid (this kid in white shirt) skipped his class to accompany me. More so, he can talk and practice English. Not an excuse but I’ll take it. Here’s a sneak peak of our fun times in Saigon Zoo.

I arrived in Vietnam alone and lonely but in a matter of hours I gained friends, a family even, I never thought possible. That was the first time in a long time that I felt genuine happiness.

Hồng Ngự and Nong Lam

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Sally’s parents preparing food for the goats in a laid back afternoon in Hồng Ngự

Ric’s kindness is never ending – he brought me to Hồng Ngự, his hometown, which is a 5 hr bus ride from the city. I got to experience the country side of Vietnam. I will be featuring more of this on my next article.

His students were just as kind. Kid, Lassu and Yumi insisted on bringing me to another university – Nong Lam. We had photo shoots, long walks, a quick volleyball game, interactions with a few students, had some good street food finds and lots of laughs.

I Can Get Used To This

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Speaking time with Clinton

Thank you Ric for reaching out, for doing the extra, extra mile in making sure I am enjoying my stay, keeping me involved in your classes and to Diamond for teaching me how to make Vietnamese coffee. I love talking to your students, sharing a bit about myself, my hometown and helping them in my little way to be confident in speaking the English language.

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Typical Speaking night here in Easy English Community

To cap off my stay here, Ric decided to bring me in the early morning to the infamous Black Lady Mountain (996 masl) and later that night, I got to be a teacher to one of his classes. I really didn’t want to leave HCMC but I know I have to.

My first ever international students, we pulled it off guys and girls.

Ric, keep doing what you do best, who knows I might join you in the future! I know it’s hard doing everything all by yourself, just ask if you need help and always take it easy. Til our next adventure my brother from another mother.

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Ric and I hiking the Black Virgin Mountain before I return to Singapore

Thank you for accepting this lost stranger and kept feeding me baby duck haha!

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Not as instant as their coffee but here’s my instant family in HCMC.

I am still on the process of figuring things out, we all are. I don’t know where my feet will take me next. But I have a pretty good idea where I might be next month.

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For now, quickies out…

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Credits to Noob GFX for the Lightroom Creamy presets I used for some of my photos here. Follow them and see their awesome stuff!

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Come Forth to Cam North – The Series

Day 1     Blogger Experience

As I was getting ready to start my travels overseas, I chanced upon an invitation in a blogger group in Facebook. There were so many bloggers who expressed their interest to the event so I was thinking, there’s no way I can make it to the cut. You know what they say, there’s no harm in trying. So I commented my blog and email, and continued binge watching my favourite TV series on Netflix.

Days passed and I had completely forgotten that invite until I stumbled upon some guy’s message on my blog saying contact me on my email. So I did and he replied, contact me on my Facebook account. Boy, he’s demanding, eh?  Little did I know, this some guy aka Sir Mike would open doors for me in the blogging scene. True enough, I was one of the chosen few to be part of Katooga Ph’s media influencers in promoting Camarines Norte’s tourism. I didn’t know how the hell that happened. You know what they say, if you never try, you’ll never know. But I did try and I still didn’t know how I got in. Haha anyway, you get the point. Keep trying, you guys.

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Bagasbas beach – one of the spots on our itinerary! And that’s Venus Raj posing for the camera. Thank you Saturday and Sunday Boys for the photo!

Most of my travels were personal, so all expenses were funded by guess who, me. You can imagine my grin when I learned that I get to come to Camarines Norte through the efforts of the Provincial Government and Katooga Ph. In short, an all-expense paid travel.

Fast forward to our meet up going to CamNorte, I didn’t mind being a solo traveler here since most of the bloggers knew each other. I’ve been joining tours from DIY TP so this was not new to me. The only difference was that these guys really know their stuff, talking about blogger events, SEO, DA, PA ranking which all sounded foreign to me at the time. I let them do the talking while I mentally jot down notes.

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The group having breakfast after a long ride from Manila

On the eve of tropical storm Jolina’s landfall, we braved the road to the south. Jolina was expected to sweep through northern Luzon but being the mamshie that she was, we felt her wrath during our 4 day stay here in Bicol. We were initially divided into 2 groups to cover more CamNorte grounds but the heavy downpour made us merged the two itineraries and embarked as one. I got to know everyone in the group, jokes thrown everywhere despite the gloomy weather, with Shake and Rattle and Roll trivia on the side c/o the ever witty, alta blogger himself, Allan. A blessing in disguise indeed.

Due to the merge, we had a jam-packed itinerary experiencing the 6 out of the 12 municipalities.

Before we get to what CamNorte has to offer, I would like to thank these awesome people who made my trip to this south gem hassle free, worry free and expense free!

Sir Bong Palma, the ever generous Supervising Tourism Operations Officer of Provincial Government of Camarines Norte

Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla,  Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte

Madam Ruth Marie Forteza, Former Municipal Councilor Local Government Unit of Jose Panganiban

Mr. Julius Adecer, Tourism officer, Paracale

From Mercedes Tourism office: Sir Nico Montemayor and Ms. Mary Antonette Ibasco, who didn’t give up on us when the weather was bad, and still pushed through with island hopping to Siete Pecados. And to Ms. Haruko, a JICA volunteer, who happily answered all our questions as to why she chose CamNorte.

From Provincial Tourism Division: Mommy Myrna Napili, our super maasikaso mommy guide and certified chismosa & Ms. Sarah Vecino – our millennial TV Series junkie guide ensuring everything in our itinerary is ticked. Of course, Sir Darius Mirasol for making our land travels comfortable.

Sir Mike Zuniga, this will not be possible, if not for this guy behind Katooga Ph. And these awesome bloggers, who really made this trip one for the books.

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During our free time, Christian of Capturing Footprints and I squeezed in impromptu photo shoots for Cabin Zero. Here are some of the outtakes.

I was definitely in for a ride. I got to meet people who were pioneers in the blogging, got introduced to the prominent people heavily involved in the boosting of the region’s tourism. Hashtag #ComeToCamNorte.

 

[Continue Reading]                  Day 2   Municipalities of Camarines Norte

Cam Norte – The Municipalities

Come Forth to Cam North – The Series Pt. 2

Day 2    Municipalities of Camarines Norte

Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo named this tourism gem, Camarines, which means “storehouse.” CamNorte is indeed a storehouse of cultural heritage, natural resources and untouched treasures. It is surrounded by the fertile soil of Quezon and the popular CamSur provinces. Hence, a melting pot of Tagalog and Bicol cultures.

CamNorte is the richest province in terms of gold deposits. When the Spaniards arrived, they noticed that locals were wearing gold ornaments. This discovery catapulted the 1575 expedition to amass precious metals (Gold and Silver) in the province.  With more wealth comes great power. Hashtag Mercantilism.

The 12 municipalities are grouped into two congressional districts, the Tagalog speaking which consisted the following – Labo, Capalonga, Sta. Elena, Paracale and Jose Panganiban; and the Bicol speaking – Daet, Talisay, Vinzons, Mercedes, Basud, San Vicente and San Lorenzo Ruiz. It was indeed amazing that out of the 6 we got to visit, 3 of which were Tagalog, the other three, you guessed it right, the Bicol speaking municipalities. Let’s get to it shall we?

DAET

First stop at the tourism office where we were warmly welcomed by Sir Bong. He was very eager to introduce us to the best attractions CamNorte has to offer. We couldn’t wait to see them all.
Bantayog Monument – a 20 ft tall majestic monument that forever memorializes Jose Rizal’s legacy along with the province’s unsung heroes. It was built 2 years after Rizal’s execution and the first ever monument built for our National hero.

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Did you know that CamNorte was the site of first ever KKK outside Manila?

Bulawan Museum – founded in year 2000 which houses a glimpse of the province history, culture and tradition from Amorsolo paintings, silver spoons, tea pot, wine glass, Katana, gold ornaments and filigrees. I am encouraging everyone to visit museums to continue heritage and culture awareness especially to our younger generations. Museums symbolize our care to our identity and race.

Moturista – 1st Tourism Extreme Challenge held in Daet where motorists were tasked to complete the 500kms in 12 hours. This initiative aims to drive tourism while promoting road safety through a seminar. The event concluded with a beach party, no less.
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Bagasbas Beach – This mile-long stretch is a top destination for surfers due to its consistent waves throughout the year making it the country’s first surfing spot and the world’s 62nd. Surfing lessons are offered at Bagasbas Aqua center at P400 per hour including board rentals.

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Dare to go extreme? Aside from surfing, Bagasbas beach is also a host to another extreme sport – Kitesurfing. International Kiteboarding Competition and Kiteboard Tour Asia were held here. Get your adrenaline pumping at Mike’s Kiteboarding during northeast monsoon season from November to March.

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Side note: LTE coverage in Daet is phenomenal! I got to watch Game of Thrones season finale when we stopped by the capitol.

JOSE PANGANIBAN

We got a courtesy call from the Mayor himself, Mayor Dong Padilla, and was gracious enough to host us in his ranch and answer all our inquiries regarding his work and future projects to the municipality. The mayor proudly declared that while promoting tourism, CamNorte will still preserve its beaches by avoiding commercial infrastructures. There’s also a 700MW power plant to be built thus addressing the intermittent electricity in the province. Insofar as accommodation is concerned, he’s aware that the province is somewhat behind from its neighboring lands. This needs to be pushed to be at par with other hotels, he said. I definitely agree, we were staying at Jocelle’s Garden and I was a first-hand witness to their shortcomings. Another challenge the mayor is trying to address is accessibility. And this is a major major, cue in Venus Raj who by the way was also here to promote tourism for CamNorte. The plan is to build a regional airport in JPang for domestic flights then connecting it to Bicol International Airport via skyway. He mentioned that there’s a Belarus company investing in this endeavour.

Here’s mommy Lariza interviewing Mayor Dong.

More of mommy Lariza’s discoveries at Moments Around the Corner. From formal to snorkeling real quick…

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After the courtesy call, we were summoned to the municipal hall for lunch. What better way to burn those carbs? Check out JPang’s attractions!

Bulalacao Beach
Pagasa Beach

JSM Yellow to Green Organic farm


Parola Island

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SAN LORENZO RUIZ

Calling all thrill seekers, this is the municipality for you.  San Lorenzo Ruiz offers the newest adrenaline attraction and longest zip line in the Bicol region! Going to the site was a bumpy ride, so if you can bring a moped or an ATV that would be perfect since the roads are still under construction. In any case, do check out the 750-meter Matacong Zip Line and conquer your fears for only 250php when sitting and 350php superman swoosh pose.

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LABO

What better way to cool down from the zip line rush? We headed over to Binuang Falls where we got to have not one but three levels of rapids, it’s just a 15-20 minute hike to get to the top so no biggie.

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These seemingly endless adventures took a toll to our rumbling stomachs. Good thing, Villa Eusebia was next in our itinerary that served a sumptuous feast.

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And this restaurant comes with a goddamn view of Lake Labo. Loboc River feels, I know.

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Nap time! Where to? Well, I can recommend two great resorts to check in and chill; Maria Fatima Farm Resort and Paradiso Verde Farm where everything is organic.

PARACALE

Before our day comes to a close, we’re off to Paracale where we were welcomed by Julius and the hashtag #ParacaLetsGo. If this sunset won’t make you make your way here, I don’t know what is. Paracale is known as the Gold Town which also means “canal digger.” There are still small scale gold mining operations persist in the outskirts of the town. Then Julius led us to Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, established in 1611, making it 406 years old! Still standing fabulous as ever and not a single scratch from the deadly earthquake that hit its neighboring provinces where century old churches were damaged and others totally destroyed to the ground. Perhaps it can be attributed to the protection from the canonically miraculous image of Our Lady of Candelaria. Not far from this magnificent church is another century milestone – the leaning light house.

Pulang Daga Beach

MERCEDES

#LoveKoSiMercedes is the municipality’s tagline but it was hard at first since we had a gloomy and wet welcome, no thanks to the tropical storm making its way out of the country. The group was supposed to visit all the seven islands, famously Siete Pecados: Caringo, Canton, Quinapaguian, Malasugui, Caringo, Apuao Pequeña. Apuao Grande and Caringo islands. Due to heavy rains, we just managed to explore the last three.

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Nonetheless, these islands are perfect if you are longing for peace and quiet. The islands will give you privacy and perfect spot for self-realization.  It’s pretty obvious on the faces of my blogger friends casually walking from one island to another – Kenneth our Dubai Travel Blogger, Jerny of TheJerny.Com and Rona of Travel With Maria.

Going back, you are welcomed by their busy fish port where fresh seafood are being transported for public consumption.

 

[Continue Reading]                  Day 3  Unspoiled Beaches

Camarines Norte Travel Guide

Come Forth to Cam North – The Series Pt. 3

Day 3     Unspoiled Beaches

I have been to the best beaches in the country, but CamNorte serves the off white, the pink, the brown and the red beach all in one plate!

Don’t believe me? Indulge in their four course menu:

Off white appetizers – Apuao Grande and Apuao Pequeña with Pagasa beach sider

Apuao Grande is a secluded island where you can camp underneath the pine trees with crystal blue waters for a dip. On the other hand, Apuao Pequeña, is the sanctuary of flying foxes and wild boars, this private island offers breath taking view of the Pacific. Both are connected by sandbar and just two of the seven islands Mercedes has in store for us!

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Apuao Pequeña
Apuao Grande
Apuao Grande

How to get here:

By Land (Philtranco, DLTB and Superlines)

8-10 hours- Bus from Cubao/Pasay, Mero Manila  to Daet, Camarines Norte

15 mins- Jeep/ Trike from Daet, Camarines Norte to Mercedes

By Air (Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Philippine Airlines)

45 minutes- Plane from NAIA, Pasay to Pili Airport, Camarines Sur

15 minutes- Bus from Pili Airport, Camarines Sur to Naga City, Camarines Sur

2 hours- Jeep from Naga City, Camarines Sur to Daet, Camarines Norte

15 minutes-  Trike from Daet, Camarines Norte to Mercedes Camarines Norte

Contact person: Ms. Nanette Ibasco – Municipal Tourism Officer

‘+63 54 444-1261 | +63 54 444-1151 | discovermercedes@yahoo.com

Pagasa beach

Pagasa beach

Entrance fee Php20
Open cottage or cabanas at Php 250-300; Closed cottages at PHP 500 to 700. Camp for free! Tricycle (special) going here will cost you Php 100 one way. There’s a nearby fish sanctuary where you can snorkel or scuba dive, just bring your own gears.
For more info, contact Ruth at +63910 – 827 – 3547.

Red salad – Pulang Daga / Pulang Lupa beach

Yearning for a fiery sunset? Fret not, Pulang Daga beach is exactly what you’re looking for.

How to get here:

Hop on a Superlines bus in Manila that will directly take you to Paracale, it can cost you to about Php 900-1000. If you are in Daet already, take a van going here at Php 60 or bus at Php 45.

Brown main course – Bulalacao beach

Bulalacao beach is located at Luklukan Sur, Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte. It is approximately 49 kms away from Daet. You will see a creamy fine sand, crystal water, coconut trees, fruit bearing trees and beautiful rock formation with some corals around it. Bulalacao beach is another good spot for picnic, swimming, kayaking and pictorials.

Bulalacao beach

How to get here:

  • You can ride a van for only 70 pesos or a bus for only 50 pesos going to town proper of Jose Panganiban.
  • When you reach Jose Panganiban, you need to ride a jeep for only 25 pesos going to Bulalacao Beach, Luklukan Sur.

Pink Dessert – Parola beach

I managed to capture the beauty of this uninhabited island with the help of these gorgeous bloggers Travel With Maria & Charlotte Anne. Go check these ladies out.

For details on how to get here and relevant information, please visit my article in this pristine island here.

Tip: If you have more time to spare, you can do a side trip to Mercedes from Vinzons in 30 minutes and do this!

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By the way, that’s Marco, our Pinoy Traveler, go check out his Parola travel guide, too.

“CamSur is popular but CamNorte is handsome” words of our tourism officer Sir Abel.

 

Day 4     Locals, heavenly Bicolano cuisines and worthy pasalubongs

Aside from the colourful beaches, secluded islands, historic land marks and century old churches, Camarines Norte boasts its good natured and gallant people where our past can confirm how this lands became the cradle of heroism in Bikolandia.

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Mercedes’ Tinapa : Perfect Pasalubong

Undeniably the best tinapa in town! So thankful I hopped off the van and bought my one kilo of tinapa, fresh from Camarines Norte waters! I enjoyed it, my mom and brother loved it, my officemates devoured it! The best indeed. Whenever you are around the area, make sure to bring these goodies with you back to Manila. 

Some of the famous delicacies I tasted and complemented my food palette were these jaw dropping menu –

Villa Eusebia’s: Sinantol (You should not miss this!)

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Mercedes’ Tinapa plant

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Sugar cane juice at JSM Yellow to Green Organic farm

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Candist’s Kitchen: original bicol express and tinumok

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Mamitas’ burgers

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Jannah’s Pasalubong

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As we head back to Manila, we stopped by the pasalubong center in Daet. Normally, I don’t bring home pasalubong but it’s a good thing I made an exception this one time. For one, their tarts are the bomb! Legit AF. The tinapa from Mercedes sold out like pancakes at home and in the office!

Still craving? Let the expert take you to a gastronomic ride, here’s Rowena’s five must try Bicol dishes.

As my sponsored trip comes to an end, I can’t help but say my huge thanks to the people behind this effort who made our CamNorte trip fun filled and memorable. Thank you to the locals for your heart-warmingly generous welcome, even though the weather was giving us a cold treatment (literally with strong winds and heavy rains). #ByeJolina

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Thank you to Sir Mike of Katooga Ph and my new found friends slash bloggers during this 4 day adventure – I won’t forget all the laughs and good times we shared. You guys really opened my eyes on the ins and outs of the blogging world, while CamNorte offered such a humbling, memorable and educational experience all rolled into one.

Quickies, out.

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Parola Island’s Unspoiled Pink Sand

You read it right, there’s a pink beach and it’s near you. Well, technically a half day joyride. But I guarantee you, this destination will be your next escape.

Calaguas group of islands is undoubtedly the most famous destination in Camarines Norte. It will surely captivate your itchy, beachy hearts. The downside here is that it’s so touristy the solitude island life you long for is forever lost to oblivion. Not to mention the one hell of a boat ride going there.

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Enroute to this so-called pink beach.  Yes, this is how calm the waters are going there!

Worry no more, I always search for the off the beaten path and this is what I found – the unspoiled pink beach of Parola Island, some 40-minute peaceful boat ride away from mainland Camarines Norte.

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Breathtaking aerial shot from Come to CamNorte

It was scorching hot when our boat arrived, but hey I’m not complaining, in fact I’m thankful since I got to witness the beach giving a pinkish glow when the sun’s rays met the shore.

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I give you…Parola Island

We were welcomed with a bunch of tourists on their camp sites and hammocks while we settled in the one and only cottage in the island. I couldn’t care less if there’s no electricity, no sari-sari store, no accommodation, well there’s a portalet at the very least. My point is, all your second thoughts in going to uninhabited island will be eradicated just by looking at this view.

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100% Island Life, 100% Twinning

The island pose such a rudimentary lifestyle that when you want to eat, you can just stand near the shore and go fishing. No kidding. Just tie a hook on your line, attach any crawling bait you can find. Throw the line at probably 2-3 meters then wait until you feel the fish at the other end.

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Easy as 1, 2 ,3 fishing. No rod needed. Photo Credit: Darius Mirasol

Grab the line and voila, there’s your lunch right there.

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Here’s what I caught. Felt sorry for this fishy fishy though.

From my hook to being cooked. Freshness guaranteed. Well I didn’t catch these guys, they were brought by the local tourism officers of Jose Panganiban for us. We couldn’t ask for more.

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After lunch, you can take a quick nap just make sure you bring your tent or hammock with you. Me being resourceful, I can sleep on any flat surface with a makeshift sheets of leaves. And if I’m being honest, I don’t usually sleep after socials cause there’s no ending socials for me. Not unless, the sun’s out and time for me to take that gorgeous sunrise.

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I asked Kenneth to pose for the camera against this instagrammable jungle backdrop.

How to get here:

You can drive from Manila to Daet by car, rent a van or take a bus that will take you 8 hours. Check buses and fares here. There used to be a direct flight from Manila to Daet but have long discontinued their services. What you can do though is to take a local airline to Naga, Camarines Sur which is 2 hours away from Daet via public utility vehicles.

Once in Daet, hop on another bus or van going to Jose Panganiban. Or waze your way here.

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Another jaw dropping drone shot from Come to Cam Norte

Suggested Itinerary for 2D/1N
Day 0
07:00AM – ETD Manila – Jose Panganiban, Cam Norte

Day 1
07:00AM – ETA Jose Panganiban | Breakfast @ Evias
08:00AM – ETD for Tailon Island (Parola)
10:00AM – ETA Parola Island
Set up tent / hammock / air beds
Explore the island
12:00PM – Lunch
01:00PM – Free time (explore three nearby islets if low tide, swimming, snorkeling)
06:00PM – Dinner
07:00PM – Socials
10:00PM – Lights out (not for me)

Day 2
06:00AM – Wakeup call
07:00AM – Breakfast
09:00AM – Break Camp
10:00AM – ETD Jose Panganiban
12:00NN – Lunch / swimming @ Turayog Resort
02:00PM – Surfing in Bulalacao beach
05:00 PM- Rest
05:30 PM – ETD Jose Panganiban – Manila

Inclusions:
– Port Fee
– Environmental Fee
– Boat Transfer
– 3 camp meals (buffet)
– 1 plated meal at Turayog Resort
– Resort Entrance fees
– Life Jacket
– Unli Cocktail drinks (Mobile Bar) uhmm hells yeah!
– Land transfers from port to Turayog and Bulalacao Beach

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This is Bulalacao Beach!

Package Rates:
Php 2,200.00/head pick up Jose Panganiban (min. of 12pax)
Php 2,500.00/head pick up Daet (min. of 12pax)

DIY It!
Alternatively, you can ride a bus taking you directly to Jose Panganiban. Or rent a van which usually cost you around Php 12,000 round trip for 12 – 14 pax. Go to Larap Port in Jose Panganiban, from there you can rent a boat going to Parola island that will cost you about Php 4,000.00 to Php 4,500 which is good for 30 to 40 people. You have to be granted permission to visit the island by the local tourism office. Contact info below.

More so, you can side trip to Bulalacao beach to surf and Pag-asa beach to chill.

For more information: Please contact the Jose Panganiban tourism office or Ms. Ruth Marie Forteza at +63910-827-3547.  For your van transfers, inquire at Northlink Events and Travel Services under Sir Darius Mirasol. Tell them Dean of The Quick Escape sends his regards. Haha!

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Not only you get the beach to yourself, but this well maintained tropical walkways, too.

I’d still recommend Calaguas, for sure, it’s one of the beaches with long stretch of finest sand and turquoise waters, but way too touristy. If you opt for serenity,  Parola Island is definitely on top of my mind.

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Be back soon!

Quickies, out.

7 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND

By Where’s Jason

I am one lucky guy who was able to live and study in Iceland from May to October 2015. My classmates and I went to several excursions throughout the course. On weekdays, we studied hard, researched, and did our paper works. On weekends, we traveled harder, explored, and did our IG works. LOL!

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What to do when at the top of Gulfoss? An IG selfie with friends, that’s right!

We saw several waterfalls, bathed in a lot of hot springs, hiked a number of mountains, drank a gazillion glasses of beers (whoops), and ate a million Icelandic hotdogs. It was an unforgettable experience and it was the best part of my life.

It was so freakin’ cool that I even went back to celebrate the New Year ’s Eve that same year. I booked the most expensive ticket I’ve ever paid for and it was worth it. Iceland became my favorite country. And I’d be more than happy to share this blog post to my friend, Dean, creator of The Quick Escape. (ed – next time share an Iceland ticket, bes Jason hahaha)

Check out the list below for 7 awesome things to do in this wonderful, wonderful country:

  1. GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR

The most common and popular tour in Iceland is the Golden Circle tour. You can book a tour or rent a car to explore this route. It’s common because it’s the most reachable tour from Reykjavik, the capital city. You can visit up to four tourist hot spots this way.

I did this thrice by doing a field trip with classmates, renting a car, and booking a tour. For flexibility and to have control of your own time, of course, renting a car would be the most obvious choice. But if you want to relax, just sit on the bus, get off to see the guided attractions with limited time, then go ahead, and book a tour. This depends on your travel style.

The first stop would be Thingvellir, followed by the Geyser, the Gulfoss, and then Kerid. This is the usual sequence when taking a tour.

  • Thingvellir is a historic site and a national park. It’s known for its rocky cliffs and fissures. Take a look around and absorb the greenish, mountainous scenery. A scene from the TV series Games of Thrones was even taken here. DCIM108GOPROGOPR0073.
  • The Geyser is a hot spring that erupts every now and then. Wait for a few minutes and watch as it shoots up water and steam. It’s fascinating just to watch this natural phenomenon. DCIM106GOPRO
  • The Gulfoss is a big-ass waterfall. It’s not as big as the Niagara Falls in Canada but it’s still an amazing site to see, especially if there’s a rainbow above the waterfall.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Kerid is one of the prettiest volcanic craters I ever saw. It’s like Christmas sparkled on nature – a mix of green grass and red ash rocks. DCIM106GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Book your tour at www.grayline.is

  1. SOUTH ICELAND TOUR

After the Golden Circle Tour, the South Iceland Tour is the next big thing you ought to do. I did this twice, both by road tripping with a friend’s car and a rented one. You can either start very early in the morning to finish it in one whole day or spend a night somewhere for a two-day trip.

OPTION A: DAY TOUR – Start very early around 2 to 3 AM and drive from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon. It is a 5 to 6 hour drive. From Jokulsarlon, head back to the city while stopping for the hot spots.

OPTION B: OVERNIGHT TOUR – Start at 8 AM and stop at the selected attractions. Spend the night at Hofn by booking a hotel or Jokulsarlon by camping. We opted to park at Jokulsarlon and sleep inside our car. We were like the guardians of the glaciers – an extremely cold act I would not advise you to do the same!

ATTRACTIONS ALONG SOUTH ICELAND:

  • Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorite waterfalls because you can go behind the falls to experience its misty vibe. DCIM107GOPRO
  • Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Drink beers while you bathe  against nature’s backdrop. Skinny dipping, perhaps? DCIM106GOPRO
  • Skogafoss is a waterfall where you can climb up for that spectacular panoramic view.DCIM107GOPRO
  • Vik is unique because of its black beach. (ed – I think this was where Daenery’s set foot in the season premiere of GOT Season 7? One thing’s for sure, Gendry was spotted here!)DCIM107GOPRO
  • Fjadrargljufur is a magical hiking trail featured on Justin Bieber’s “I’ll show you.” Yes, I’ll show you the right angle in taking that perfect shot. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Svartifoss is another awesome waterfall known for its columnar structure. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Fjallsarlon is an odd place like Mars with ice and brownish landscape. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon filled with bluish ice bergs. DCIM107GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Rent your car www.citycarrental.is

  1. DIAMOND CIRCLE TOUR

If you have one week in Iceland, consider going to the North to do the Diamond Circle Tour. You need to have at least three whole days to do this.

DAY 1: Drive from Reyjavik to Akureyri

DAY 2: Diamond Circle Tour

DAY 3: Drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik

ATTRACTIONS ALONG NORTH ICELAND:

  • Akureyri is a laid-back town up north known as the capital of North Iceland. Sounds like my kind of town to just chill, literally. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Godafoss is an elegant yet dramatic waterfall, which was used as a film location for the movie “Prometheus.” Jon Snow, where you at? (dunno your name in the film ha)DCIM104GOPRO
  • Lake Myvatn is the quieter version of the Blue Lagoon. Do some rock balancing while you’re at it.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Hverir by Mt. Namafjall is a land of geothermal hot springs and mud pools. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Viti is a crater near Krafla Volacano. Safest spot to take a groupfie! #NoPun DCIM104GOPRO
  • Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. #PowerDCIM104GOPRO
  • Asbrygi is a gigantic horseshoe-shaped canyon. DCIM104GOPRO
  1. WESTFJORD TOUR

We covered the Northern and Southern parts of Iceland. Now, I’ll take you to the West. This can be accomplished on a weekend or a 2-day trip. Drive from Reykjavik to the West and sleep at Flateyri. In my opinion, it’s best to go here during the winter season. Just be mindful that you may need a 4by4 vehicle to get pass through the thick layers of snow.

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  1. HIKE MT. ESJA

To get the best panoramic view of the city, trek atop Mt Esja. I hiked this beauty three times – the first one with Filipino friends, the second with classmates, and the third one for a concert. A concert was held on top of a mountain?! You bet!!!

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  1. DIVE SILFRA FISSURE

This is my best dive to date. This dive site is located within the Thingvellir national park. It’s open all-year round. Get a chance to dive or snorkel between the Eurasian and North American plates which drift apart for about 2 cm per year. The water is crystal clear and refreshing; you can actually take a sip. Take note that temperature does go down to 1°C.

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It’s definitely a unique and rewarding experience. Get ready to experience the best brain breeze of your life! (ed – I wouldn’t mind getting brain freeze if I can be at two continents at once!!!)

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your dive tour at www.dive.is

  1. BATH IN THE BLUE LAGOON

The most relaxing thing to do in a cold country like Iceland is to bath in its geothermal waters. And the most popular geothermal spa in this country is the Blue Lagoon, which was formed by accident. The water is blue because it contains Silica, which is a by-product of the nearby geothermal power plant.

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I recommend you try this right after arriving at the airport. It will calm your nerves and your body. It’s soothing. Drink a beer while dipping your body in this geothermal wonder.

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your airport transfer plus blue lagoon admission at https://grayline.is/tours/blue-lagoon/

In sum, these are just 7 out of the tons of awesome activities you can do in Iceland. These are just the ones that pop up first in my head. Don’t think for a second I forgot about Aurora Borealis. Here you go folks – a bonus attraction that everyone has to see or at least if the skies allow you to – The Northern Lights! Those dazzling lights will definitely blow your mind.

Northernlights

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Jason Gotuato is the guy behind www.wheresjason.com. He writes technical reports during the day and travel stories at night – an engineer by profession and a traveler by heart. He has done a lot of crazy stuff from diving between the North American and Eurasian plates, to jumping out of a plane. Hats off to you bro!!!

His quest is to conquer this world and bring out the adventurer in all of us. Take a peek into his adventures @wheresjasong on Facebook and @wheresjason_ig on Instagram. Follow him as he lives his life, one adrenaline rush at a time.

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Quickies, out!

Long Weekend Laresio

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Looking for a quick, adrenaline pumped, weekend getaway? Hurry now and waze your way to Laresio Lakeside Resort & Spa!

Above is the ginormous slide for Slip ‘N Fly and on the far right of the photo is the intimidating 32ft cliff dive.

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So why did we end up here? Convenience,  budgetarians, and we’re thrill seekers, so. It’s just an hour drive from Manila! In order to meet the schedule of our balikbayan friend, Marcris, Cristina and I opted for a day tour. We just walked in and  booked a day tour from 7:00am -12:00am (the longest day tour I ever experienced).

Hello there, Alligator Lake!

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Yes, this lake used to be crocodilian’s home; but now, alligators and crocodiles have been extirpated. Sad. Would have been exhilarating to kayak with these wild creatures.

Laresio three-l seekers! Get it? lol

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So let’s have a run down of some of the activities we partaken that pretty much banged us up (in a good way):

The Blob (Jump and Fly) –  just lay peacefully in the blob, next thing you know, you’re 20 ft in the air.

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Ouch. But it was fun!

Zip line Lake – you get to see entirety of this lake. Surreal.

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Introducing the cheapest go pro pole ever  (safety of your go pro not guaranteed)

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Wall Climbing – we couldn’t care less climbing this wall even under 30 degrees. Nognog goals.

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Rappelling – you know what they say, what goes up must come down.

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Slip ‘N Fly – smile, slide then take don’t forget to take a selfie

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Kayaking – we got to see the lake from above, now we experience the lake itself.

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32 ft Cliff Diving – save the beast for last, yup, this one is the beast!

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Kuya Jomar, the best Laresio staff ever, was so generous he allowed us to party and karaoke our lungs out till the wee hours in the morning.

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We got Laresio all to ourselves!

The extreme activities Laresio has to offer aren’t for everyone. If you want to lay back and chill, you can do it too here. They have a spa for goodness sake 

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Itinerary:
Extreme Laresio for 1,500php/pax (2 meals included)

10:00 am – arrival at Laresio
 Overhang Swing️
 Vine Swing
 13ft Cliff Diving
 Blob (Jump & Fly)
1:00 pm – Lunch
 Slip n’ Fly
 Zipline Lake
 Kayaking
 Wall Climbing
 Rappelling
 32ft Cliff Diving
6:00 pm -Rest
6:30 pm – Dinner
9:00 pm – Comedy Bar & Live Band
12:00 – 4:00 am – Karaoke & Walwal

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Here’s our extreme, adrenaline pumped weekend where we paid to get bruises

Please watch in HD.

🎧🎶 Matoma & Becky Hill – False Alarm
🎥📷 GoPro Hero4 (no filter)

We had a great time! Well, zoom in to Mac’s face if you want proof. Hahaha!

I definitely recommend this place – great staff, value for your money & extreme water activities!

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Quickies, out!

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