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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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!

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

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.

DIY Travel Philippines goes to my hometown

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If there’s one Facebook group that I am most engaged and hooked – it would be DIY Travel Philippines. DIYTP was indeed a  lot of help when I was travelling over the past year. Seriously. If not for this group, I won’t have tipid travels from Mike of Tripidito Travel. (I had the pleasure of getting their services for my mom’s birthday in Palawan and my Be Whole in Bohol escapade). There would’ve been no discounted tours, no random weekend getaways, not to mention the guides I have contacted for my Cebu adventures, Rizal hikes and of course – the friends I gained along the way.

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Speaking of friends, here they are to name a few, L-R: DIYTP Admin Midas, Dwynn, JP aka The Rustic Nomad, Redg, Ynoh, Mommy Edna, Wilbert, Joyce and another admin Bryan.

For the longest time, I have been planning on bringing my friends to Isla Verde.  There were plans, chat groups, official hashtags, even memes, but it never panned out. I can even fill an entire sketch pad with our island life drawings. Well not until last November 2016 where I actually brought three of my closest friends at work in my hometown. So – I wasn’t planning of returning anytime soon. However, there were recent unforeseeable events that literally blew me in a bad, bad way. For me to cope with it, I had to do something, I needed to be anywhere. I had to forget and think things through. Then, the DIYTP Summer Getaway happened.

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I didn’t quite realize how much the island changed the last time I was here – maybe because I was excited to tour my friends back then. But now, those “recent” events took me to a dimension like no other, a perspective no one should see. There was this certain gloom that loomed in the island. Perhaps since most of the people I know were either dead or relocated in the city.

Yes, this is a happy post, an eventually you-will-feel-good write up. Bear with me.

We arrived at Surface Interval resort around 3:00 pm. Some of us were tired and hangry (I think, aka me), but the DIY admins were very apologetic and accommodating you were not gonna be mad at them. Oh come on, we’ve been in their shoes – organizing, planning an event then things spiraled out of control.  We understood. And boy, the admins made it up to us big time. Feeding us with lechon, raffling off loads of stuff, tours to Cebu / Pangasinan / Sagada among others, travel gadgets and the coveted Trip for 2 to goddamn freaking Maldives! Thanks, Dragonfly Holidays #BakaNaman. The items to be given away were too many, we ended up getting one or two (or more – hello Mark with the three power banks). Thanks also to the organizers that sponsor the event, Robin, Geri, to name a few. Even Kim of TripZeeker was there, too!

The funny thing was, the first item to be raffled was a GoPro lanyard. The first ‘casualty’ to receive this item was a 16 year old girl named Joy. Little did we know, Joy would be the last. Yes, she got the grand prize! How lucky can she get, right? From lanyard to Maldives, real quick. Congratulations Joy!

Props to Midas and Jad who aside from hosting the program, made us laugh all the way through. Such fun times!

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DIY Admins preparing the feast. (L-R: Rach, Mich, Jad, Gold, and Midas)
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And by feast, I mean these!
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Everyone got their prize/s – now waiting for the announcement of the grandest prize of them all – Trip for 2 to Maldives c/o Dragonfly Holidays!

What did I win? A free trip to Hundred Islands from LMTA for one. Yes, I guess I’m going solo. Rub it in, DIY.

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Gimme some Open Forum vibes before Socials (pina susyal na term for walwalan)

The part I was looking forward – the walwalan portion. I had shisha c/o Muhamed, free flowing drinks, and this ingenious card game which will defo get you drunk. Thanks to Midas the mastermind. What more can I ask for! We were done at around 6am. Oh yeah, we drank, laughed, shouted, cursed more than we should, sang a few songs and maybe cried a little bit, the entire night. After we cleaned up the area, I took a nap on a bench and had breakfast on light head.

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I spent a total of 3 mins inside this tent. So much for walwaling.

The island tour began – first off to Bgy. San Andres where my father grew up. My brother and I used to go here almost every summer during our childhood days. I sort of toured some of the DIYers in the area and brought them to the light house, yes, it’s a photo ops spot.

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View from Lighthouse

Next spot, the infamous Sampalukan corals. We snorkeled and free dived – it was exhilarating! Not that this was important, but these corals happened to be a few meters away from my cool Lolo’s place.

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Sampalukan Sunset

Want to DIY Isla Verde? See my itinerary and expenses here.

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Sunset view from Surface Interval

Before I forget, the reason we’re doing this summer getaway was because DIYTP reached another year! We are now 2 years old with over 459,000 members and counting. So if you’re still not part of our community,  go ahead and join this wonderful bunch. Not only will you get access to countless itineraries, events, tips and promos, you’ll definitely gain new friends!

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Even Facebook took notice! Hi Tim and Mommy Edna who I met here in this summer getaway…
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Lighting up candles for that, congratulations DIYTP!

To know more about DIYTP, kindly visit this link. Yes DIYTP is expanding. Stay tuned for some exciting news.

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“Buti pa yung kahoy, may picture” #SquadGoals #KuyaKamiNaman

Let’s take it to the top, shall we?

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drone2Thank you JP for giving me permission to use your sick drone shots! Perhaps I bored you with words – let me show you some live visuals then.

Video credit to the amazing Tim of The Secret Adventures of SkywalkTim.

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Til my next escape to Isla Verde…

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Quickies, out!

 

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.

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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

Captivating Calaguas

“One hell of a ride yet heaven when we arrived!”

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I have used that line back when we went to Dicasalarin Cove; but I think, the trip to Calaguas toppled it all in every aspect.

Why is that? Let’s go back to where my quick escape started…

But wait, check out first our happy faces and the beauty of Calaguas caught on cam here:

I am always a DIY person when it comes to traveling and soul searching. But whenever I’ll be organizing a trip for more than 8 pax, I’ll ask for someone else to do it for me – hence; Cookies Travel and Tours is my go to agent. Full list of itinerary and expenses below.

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Our group met at 9pm Friday night in SM North and braved the place where forever existed – EDSA. We stopped at 2nd pick up point in McDonald’s Buendia to meet the other groups the travel agency was hosting. All in, we’re about 4 groups (40 people displaced in 4 Grandia vans). This was the major setback – we didn’t have control over our time. We had to wait for other people to arrive, not to mention, how frequent they insisted on having stopovers after a couple of minutes cause they wanna pee (they’re already drinking along the way). Another thing that prolong our already long agony drive was that one van lost his way and we had to convene and discuss the plan (which I thought, they already had since they won’t be a travel agency for nothing, right?) Our estimated travel time of 7 hours became a dragging 12 hours. It’s safe to say I am reverting back to DIY trips be it a large group or what not. We reached Paracale, Camarines Norte at 9am.

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But that was not the worst part.

We only got half an hour before we board our boat– our group dispersed in buying last minute essentials – (2) 5 gallon water, plastic bags for waterproofing our things, pulutan, coffee and booze. We hopped on to a 25-capacity banca hoping against hope – a safe, smooth ride.

Safe? Debatable. Smooth? That was the craziest, bumpiest,stomach- turning, worst boat ride I experienced to date. We’re like survivor castaways (yes we’re dripping wet, wet from the rain and waves!) with no staff and crew to help if the boat stumbled over. A normal person could’ve endured that ride given enough rest. Luckily, our case was entirely the opposite. Hashtag no pun. The other groups had it worse, yup the ones I mentioned drinking, you can imagine how comfortable their trip was –stretch it to freaking two and half hours of seesaw motion.

Finally, our faces lit up when we saw the captivating Calaguas’ coast!

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Huge surfer waves welcomed us as we alight the boat. I couldn’t care less since I was already soaking wet – I jumped off as soon as we reached the shore. The struggle was real when we needed to transport our belongings off the boat.
Tips: Waterproof your things! Bring raincoat or plastic jacket too!

We were exhausted from the trip that waiting for our travel agency to cook us food would drove us nuts. Good thing, one of our friends, prepared a packed lunch good for 10 pax. What a relief. Another tip right there!

Now a bit energized, we faced yet another roadblock – setting up the Vango (the humongous 10 people tent where you can glamp all night long). After an hour, we managed to erect the goddamn shelter. And the food from our agent were ready too. Round 2 of Man Vs Food commenced.

With no cellular service, we were left to enjoy what we have around – good company, majestic view, fine sand, amazing beach. who am I to complain right?! Sometimes, it’s exhilarating to disconnect from the world and strengthen your relationship to the real connections you got – your family, your friends. The virtual world will still be there when you get back, trust me.

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With our phones just for snapping pics, playing JB songs, and occasionally as flash light, time surely can pass slowly. We partied the night around in our rented nipa hut and drank til we drop in the sand. Dancing and shouting  in the shore like crazy, oh boy, hashtag no regrets. I remembered sleeping in the tent only to wake up an hour later. That’s my body clock telling me to sleep anywhere but here.

I was greeted by a cool island breeze as I step out of the tent. My friends and I decided to play volleyball and cap it off by a morning swim.

Ronnie of PlanB tours invited us for a quick 10 minute hike to a hill at one end of the island. We got to see an awesome scenic view of Calaguas and its neighboring islands. What a sight!

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The waters of Calaguas isn’t for the weak of heart – especially when you easily get sea sick. But for those who can endure the ride – this piece of heaven is for you. Boracay can boast its impeccable white sand and crystal clear waters but Calaguas can rival its spotless, powdery sand and the serenity this virgin island has to offer.

Itinerary 

Day 1

9:00 pm Pick up point SM North

10:00 pm McDonald’s/ Shell Buendia bound for Paracale

9:00 am Paracale, Camarines Norte

9:00 – 10:00 am Waterproofing, last minute shopping

10:00 – 12:30 pm Epic boat ride

12:30 pm Lunch, set up tent

1: 30 – 6:00 pm Beach time

6:30 pm Dinner

7:00 pm – 5:00 am Walwal aka party all night long

Day 2

7:00 am – Breakfast

8:00 am – 11:30 am Volleyball, swim, hike

11:30 am – Depart Calaguas

1:30 pm – ETA Paracale port

7:00 pm – ETA Manila

Expenses:

Cookies Travel and Tour: Calaguas

2D/1N stay at P 2,999/head

Package includes:

Roundtrip van transfer

Environmental fee

Entrance fee

Roundtrip boat transfer

3 Meals – Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast

Personals (transpo and dinner at McDo)  x contribution (booze, food, essentials): approximately P 1,000
I’m pretty sure my friends won’t be back here anytime soon. As for me, I am open for any invites!

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