A Phnom Penh Post

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D E C I S I O N S ,  D E C I S I O N S

My 21 day visa-free stay in Vietnam was coming to a close, I opened my laptop and googled “How to extend visa in Vietnam?” It turned out extending a visa would cost me a neck, ok done. Haha nope, but a whopping $300. I. Cannot. Afford. That… Juggling options in my head and low key panicking where the hell am I gonna get money, I decided to go to Cambodia. I was not gonna shell out that amount of money for a visa extension, hmmm might as well travel, right? So here’s the plan: exit on my 20th day, cross the border to Cambodia, party in Phnom Penh, party harder in Siem Reap, then apply visa on arrival in Vietnam (which costs $85: $35 for visa approval letter plus $50 for the stamp). Whew! I paid for the visa online and got my approval letter two days later allowing me 3 month stay with multiple entries.

Phnom Penh is just roughly 7 hour bus ride away from Saigon. My third time exiting a country, ugh (ubos na ubos na me). Second time solo backpacking. And my first time in Cambodia. Also, first time celebrating Christmas away from my family. A bit sad but still hyped AF.

On my first day in Phnom Penh, I stayed in a hotel. Nah, this was not a hotel nor a hostel. It’s the mansion of my couchsurfing host from Nigeria, Silver (pictured below, left).

We didn’t get to talk much, he’s busy with an event so I just rested with a hungry stomach in his pad. The following morning, he took me to breakfast. Literally just took me, I ate while he and his friend watched me eat. He said they don’t normally have breakfast. Weird. Anyways, I have a long day ahead so we awkwardly parted ways. Thank god.

D A Y  2   I N   O U D O N G   M O U N T A I N

Sokleab, a tuktuk driver, contacted me in Couchsurfing and asked if I was willing to join his tour and share cost with another tourist. He got me at sharing the cost, so I said yes. Now we were off to Oudong, a town 40 km from Phnom Penh.

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Back in the day this place was royal residence and Cambodia’s former capital for more than 250 years until 1866. Sokleab, Geoffrey and I hiked mountain Phnom Udong to witness a few majestic temples and rewarded ourselves with this view.

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It was a whole day of marveling at the grandeur of Khmer architecture. Here are just some of the sights and temples I took pleasure in capturing –

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Don’t be fooled by the serene water, this pond has starving “little monsters” waiting for the tourists to toss a bread or two.

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The intricacy of  it all got me speechless!

We also encountered some aggressive monkeys, this was the only one who posed for me.

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Plus I got to eat frogs, zoom in to the right of the photo below. I didn’t like it. At least the coffee made up for it.

 

T H E   B A C K P A C K E R S

We got back at the city at around 6:00pm and I checked in at Dynsey Flashpacker Hostel. It so happened that Geoffrey was staying at the same backpacker lodge I booked online. And for some reason, we were sharing the same room. What were the odds?! FYI this was one of the cheapest hostels here in the city, it cost me $4 a night.

The best thing about backpacker hostels is that aside from interacting with the locals when you are in a foreign land, you can meet a lot of travelers from around the world. Share a story or two, drink a beer or two (not for me, I usually drink 5 – 6 beers and I’m just getting started, eat new delicacies with Sokleab and Geoffrey, and heck yeah even join a mini birthday party when you literally met the celebrant a few seconds ago, I’m not talking about you Andor 😛 It was a roller coaster fun celebrating your birthday, Jenna. The only girl I know who decided to celebrate her birthday visiting S-21 and The Killing Fields. Then there’s Franck who I got all the good stuff. Franck, do you remember the name of the funny Chinese guy? 🙂

(From L-R, clockwise – Sokleab, Franck, Jenna, Andor and Geoffrey modeling for our tuktuk ride)

C A M B OD I A ‘S   H O R R I F I C   P A S T

I won’t dwell on the details of my visit to S-21 and The Killing Fields museum, it’s something you have to experience it yourselves. I was appalled and speechless after that ordeal. I know humans are cruel but to do that on their own flesh and blood, their own countrymen was beyond comprehension. And to think that this happened just 40 years ago, a modern day case of inhumane act fueled by blinded beliefs. I really hope and pray, History Will Never Repeat Itself. 

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“Never will we forget the crimes committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime”

R E A L I Z A T I O N S

If you have a day to spare in Phnom Penh, I highly suggest you take time to visit these museums and contemplate how we, in our own little way, can stop atrocity like this from happening again. I know you’re thinking about NoKor, Syria, Venezuela, or even your respective country. Yes, it’s happening right before our very eyes, monstrosities still exist today. Are we doing something about it, anything just to even address these? I will leave this open ended.

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Such innocence, let’s strive to keep it this way. Let the kids be kids, let them have a better life.

A N O T H E R   D A Y ,   A N O T H E R   A D V E N T U R E

The next day I joined another city tour with Sokleab and this time around I was with a family from Malaysia. They were really nice and friendly.

We went to Silk island and learned how silk farming created a sustainable livelihood for the farmers and weavers, we also enjoyed fresh, humongous mangoes from locals, and fed some animals in the zoo.

We then tried some rice cakes at Central Market, and ended the tour at Independence Museum and Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

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Independence Monument

Later that night, I hopped from one famous spot to another: Wat Phnom, Night Market, chilled at riverside, and met another backpacker from Switzerland, Dany. Sokleab took us to Royal Palace, Diamond Island, and Love Park.

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Wat Phnom

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View at riverside
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Royal Palace
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Diamond Island
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Love Park

A    D A Y    B E F O R E   C H R I S T M A S

Another first for me – to celebrate Christmas away from family. I was kinda sad but the adventurer in me couldn’t contain the excitement. It’s always the unknown that exhilarates me. I packed my bag, had breakfast and checked out of the hostel. Boarding a bus bound for Siem Reap and staring at the window, I couldn’t help but think of my mom, my brother and my dogs back home. They were really supportive of my decisions (yes..dogs included), even though I had major bad ones. I guess that’s what your family is for – to celebrate with you in good times and to understand you in times of the bad. Why does a bus window bring out all these emotions?! Anyone else feeling the same way? Damn these movies and K dramas!

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That’s it for now, I will be talking about my Christmas in Siem Reap, my itinerary and expenses for the entire trip on my next post! Aahhh it’s gotta be good!

Quickies, out.
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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!

Apuao Pequena
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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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!!!

MtEsja

  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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Baler Joiner

Dingalan view

I was browsing Byaheng Budgetarian facebook group on  a Wednesday night when I happened to come across a group looking for joiners in their Baler weekend getaway. I didn’t have plans, so I asked myself, why not? I messaged Ejay, the group organizer from The RunawayS Travel and Tour, if he had a spot for me. I got an instant yes. So it’s settled. I was bound for Baler in 2 days time. Just like that. No stir. No ifs. No bs. 😜

Can’t wait to surf these waves!

Hit the waves

If the event will push through, it would be the 2nd time I joined an event where I get to meet them on the trip itself. Pretty exciting and risky at the same time. But that’s the beauty of it – I get to lose myself around people who have no clue about me. Well actually, not all, I did invite Lex and Josh to accompany me. I can be paranoid too. 😅

Anyway going back, you can do it too. You can be as carefree as you want to be – even just for a weekend.

Fast forward to Friday night, Lex, and I were seated at the back of the van silently eavesdropping to our new friends, Ejay, Cielo, Cherry and Mark as they chatted away while waiting for Tim and Ruth. Fine, I was eavesdropping. Lex was sleeping. We hit the road at around 11:30pm. Picked up Josh and Jhune in QC and the rest of the gang, Ella, Sev, Marj and Mara in Bulacan. We arrived in Baler at 7am. Had breakfast at the eatery near Baler sign. Did some photo ops with a local kiddo photographer before heading to our rented house.

Aura pa

After settling in, the Baler tour commenced. We hiked for about 40 mins to reach the ever majestic Ditumabo Mother Falls. And mother dear, it didn’t disappoint. Matter of fact, her presence was overpowering borderline frightening.

Mother Falls

We weren’t able to hike further and see Father falls. I mean look how raging the water was.  After taking some photos, and by some, I mean hundreds, the group decided to descend and ate at the food stalls located at the base.

Mother falls side

Below is what I call the daughter falls. Now they’re a complete family of falls. Yes, ang mga paasa come in three’s!

Daughter falls :P

The next destination was Dingalan lighthouse. It’s just a 10 minute hike from the drop off point. Mid way to the lighthouse, I turned and witnessed why this is the “Batanes of the East.” How steep the trail may seem, I didn’t hesitate to capture these breathtaking views.

View from the top

Hello mighty Sun

Tower life

What made our hike extra special were these cute little tour guides who kept referencing us to Encantadia characters. Apparently that TV series was a hit here.

Hello there #alltoourselves

Of course, I had to take a selfie at the top. Who wouldn’t, right?

Yup we fit here

I’m pretty that was where all of us had sun burnt skin. Well, it was worth it.

Embracing freedom

Diguisit falls and Aniao Islets were the next spots in our itinerary. Compared to the first two destinations, these two were chill, less strenuous as we just strolled, took some photos and silently appreciated how jaw dropping these places are.

To get a better  overlooking view of Baler, head on to Ermita hill.
Why were we in Baler in the first place? To walwal. Kidding, that’s for later . Of course – to surf!

Lex,  Josh and I took turn in surfing for 1 hour over the same board. That’s 350/3 haha sulit! Hashtag kakuriputan unleashed. This is the sport I really want to pursue; well not professionally, i just wanna advance my skills here. Surfing was so much fun!

Surf <3

At last, our jam packed day came to an end. Beautiful sunset at Sabang beach!

Chasing Sunset
Well, not just quite yet. Ejay and our surf instructors prepared dinner then set up the karaoke and beer pong table with cards on the side. Idle time was not on this tour’s itinerary. The night is young and so are we, I said to myself. We sang, drank, played cards, and laughed out loud the whole night. Don’t even get me started on the vibrating chair only Jhune can do!
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By 9am, we already had breakfast and ready to hit Dicasalarin Cove. No room for curing hangover! In fact, let’s make it worse with the occasional bumps as we sailed the Dicasalarin bay. We set foot at this beautiful chunk of paradise at around 10:40am. We got the whole place to ourselves! Good thing, we brought surfboard and skim board.
Hello Dicasalarin!!!
Gateway to heaven
Well aside from the view, there’s just one thing that kept on catching my attention – that lighthouse! So I led the group and hiked to the top.

Yes, I didn’t let the opportunity pass, I climbed the tower with my wobbly knees and trembling hands. The view was perfect.

Adrenaine rush

Then we headed down and searched for the hidden cave in the island. It’s an enclosed sanctuary where soothing waves collided with the rocks. This was the view inside the cave.

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By 3pm, we headed back and had late buffet lunch at Picnic By The Bay (a Gerry’s grill branch) for just 200php. So sulit. Plus we got to enjoy the beachfront where kids surfed on the beach.

By 6pm where everyone’s freshened up, we set out for City tour (night edition). First on the list,  Donya Aurora’s house, then stood Baler church on the side.

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Of course, what better time to visit this infamous Balete tree – at night. 👻 Then, dropped by Hanging bridge for a quick photo op.

 

ITINERARY 
DAY 01
12:00mn – ETD Shaw to Baler
06:00am – ETA Baler and breakfast (pax account)
07:00 – Check in and tour preparation
08:00 – Start of Tour
●Ditumabo Mother Falls
12:00nn – Lunch (pax account)
●Baler lighthouse
●Diguisit falls
●Aniao islets
●Ermita Hill
●Sabang beach surf spot
07:00pm – dinner (pax account)
Free time, socials and walwal time
10:00 – lights out (not really, we walwal-ed til 03:00am)
DAY 02
08:00am – wake up call and breakfast (hosted)
09:30 – Dicasalarin Cove tour
10:40 – ETA Dicasalarin via rented boat (included in the tour fee)
03:00pm– ETD Dicasalarin to Baler
04:00 – Late Lunch at Picnic by the Bay 200 buffet
06:00 – Start of City Tour (night edition)
● Donya Aurora’s house
●Baler church
●Balete tree
●Hanging bridge
08:30 – ETD Baler to Manila
02:30am– ETA Manila
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Baler Aurora with Dicasalarin cove tour only for Php 1,999 all in na bes!

December 3-4, 2016 (weekends)

Inclusions
✔ Comfortable van transfers (Manila-Baler-Manila)
✔ One (1) night fully air-conditioned room accommodation
✔ All permits, entrance and environmental fees including Dicasalarin cove
✔ Roundtrip boat transfers for Dicasalarin cove tour
✔ Service of tour coordinator/ photographer
✔ Complete Baler tour with 10 tourist spots
✔ Exclusive mobile bar at night with fun games!
✔ Free breakfast on 2nd day
✔ Free use of gopro hero4

Optional activities and other exclusions:
Other meals not stated above
One (1) hour surfing with board and instructor (Php 350 per person)

EXPENSES
Tour – Php 2,ooo
Bottled water (2L) & Chips – Php 300
Breakfast (day 1)- Php 50
Lunch (day 1) – Php 50
Surf board rental – Php 350/3 (Php 117/pax)
Dinner, booze and breakfast (day 2) – hosted
Buffet Lunch – Php 200
Total Expenses: Php 2,717
Aside from the well organized event Ejay and the group organized, the all expense paid booze slash walwal party was what made me jump in and join hahahah! #KeepinItReal
I was really happy going back to Baler. I won’t mind coming over and over again especially with this group I just met but clicked right there and then.
What goes up must come down
Photo Credits to Tropang Lagalag and Frances. Hope to travel with you guys soon! Like next month soon?
Dicasalarin view
Bye for now, Baler.
No filter feet
Quickies, out x