May 14, 2017

Travel Notes: Bangantalinga, Iba Zambales

I like the place because (1) it was not crowded, (2) it has fine white sand, (3) it has clear water, (4) it had activities to offer, and (5) our host (a colleague) and her family were very accommodating and helpful! Thanks Gwen and Family!!!


I am not a good host at all - I don't take care of guests, nor attend to their needs. I just let them be - I tell them, "food is in the fridge, here's the kitchen if you want to cook, and please clean after yourself." This is why I do not dare invite anyone to my hometown.


Activities:

We arrived around 7 in the morning, and immediately set up our tent. The responsible ladies in the group went to the market to buy stuff and prepare for lunch. The rest either slept, sang karaoke, picked mangoes, or played by the beach.

Mango Picking

I was strolling by the beach and saw some locals catching jellyfish that were washed up in shallow waters. These jelly fish don't sting, but tourists were scared of them so the locals caught them with a long metal stick :(

The responsible ladies prepared a splendid lunch!

Boodle fight

Say HALLOW to my lovely team!
After resting a bit, we went boating, snorkeling, and fish feeding (aka vomiting in the sea) - eeep! Seriously though, don't drink, swim, and pass out guys!

There were lots of corals here, but mostly dried up :( good thing there were still small fish roaming around, but I hardly spot them - I have terrible eyesight, especially underwater.


Sunset by the beach

We went back to our tent fulfilled, hungry, and ready for dinner! Yey for a good day!

After dinner, I drank beer to sleep soundly - bad idea because there was no decent toilet around - I had to improvise a little when I couldn't keep it anymore :D

Capping of the night: Stargazing

Getting There: Place was far, we spent around 4-5 hour from Manila to Iba, Zambales.

See you around!
Arlet

April 30, 2017

Mt Sawi Daytrip Notes

Difficulty: Easy, Mt Sawi circuit can be finished in 4 hrs with plenty of breaks.

How to get there: Bus from Five Star/ ES Transport Cubao to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija , then jeep from Cabanatuan to Gabaldon (but earliest jeepney trip may be around 6am)

Expenses:

P20 - Registration per head
P500 - Guide for up to 10 people (The hike was easy and quick so I was a bit disappointed with the guide fee especially if your group is small, and do not need much helping)

Hiking Notes & Tips

Start early. Hydrate properly. Bring sun protection such as caps/ shades/ sunblock/ umbrella, etc. The hike may be easy, but the humidity and heat can make it excruciating. We climbed 7am and was back before 11am, but the heat was already enough to make it difficult for me to breathe.

Good for beginners - nice view and easy trail.

You can also do a twin hike of Mt Sawi and Mt Mapait

Photos

View from Summit

Simbahang Bato

Cogon grasses trail

See you around!
Arlet

April 1, 2017

Mt Sipit Ulang Daytrip Notes

Mt Sipit Ulang Summit (Sipit Ulang translates to crab claw)

Activities: Hiking, Caving, Rock Climbing & Rappelling, Swimming (Falls)

Difficulty: Mostly easy, can also choose to do some tricky rock climbing parts which may be scary for beginners. These parts can be skipped too, without affecting the original trail.

How to get there:
Fx from Farmers Cubao going to Eastwood Montalban – drop off at Total Gas Station, 1hr (50php/head)

Tricycle to Brgy Mascap Jumpoff , 30 mins (30 php/head or 150 php/tryk)

Budget & Expenses:

Transpo (back and forth) – P160 / head

*For going back from Brgy Mascap jumpoff to Eastwood, you might need to pay for the whole tricycle because there are rarely other passengers going back,

Guide - P500 / group (no sidetrip, max of 5 people)

Travel Notes & Tips

The trek to summit is around 2hrs including LOTS of picture taking and stops already. It can be finish in an hour if your group is not as addicted to picture taking as my group was :D

The trek from summit back is less than an hour

Bring headlamp for the caving part (Phone flash light is okay too, but then you won’t be hands-free)

Use small day pack for the caving part (Full pack is okay too, but challenging to fit some of the cave trail)

No river crossing (summer season, around March)

Gloves will be of big help for rock climbing since the rock formations are sharp

The trail we took are as follows: (1) Snake Trail, (2) Tanawan Bridge, (3) Paniki Trail, (4) No Name (as of March 2017) Cave, (5) Summit.

You can also do twin hike or side trip to Payaran Falls.

Photos







See you around!
Arlet

Caliraya Resort Travel Notes


Activities: Obstacle course, Cycling, Swimming, Kayaking, Fishing, Golf, Zipline, Bonfire, Hanging Bridge

How to get there:

I went there via private transpo, and just used Waze, but I suggest you allot 3-4 hours travel time. I headed out late, thinking that I was just going to nearby Laguna and travel would be max 2hrs, but it was actually far, and was near Pagsanjan already.

Travel Notes and Tips

I enjoyed my stay a lot even if I didn’t get to try all the activities, due to bad weather and late arrival in the area. The staff were nice and accommodating

Because of the bad weather, I stayed indoor the whole day for my first day. Good thing the hut in the fishing village had good ambiance and amenities. Had I stayed in a tent, I might have been sulking the whole day.

Better to eat in the Residence Hotel area rather than wait for the food to be delivered in the clubhouse. There is a free shuttle to and from these locations.

See you around!
Arlet

January 29, 2017

I Bet on Myself (Mt Damas Dayhike)

"If my knees hurt on this climb, I'm going to completely give up the hopes of being (and actual training to be) a mountaineer this year"

Last therapy session at Tokyo Healthlink Makati

This was a bet I made with myself when I joined the Mt Damas climb. It was the first climb I did after finishing my almost 2 months of therapy. I was hopeful for the result of the therapy but was not expecting much since my knees hurt even from daily activities like walking and sitting in the office. I think it was a time when I couldn't tell myself honestly that everything will be fine - and I can still aim for the summits.

I read about how Mt Damas is a small but terrible mountain. At only 685+ MASL, it was considered a major climb, with a 6/9 difficulty level, and around 10hrs of trek with various trail categories.

Feelings

I was anxious. I didn't know if I wanted my knees to hurt or not. But I did not want to test myself carelessly in an uncontrolled environment such as a mountain - it's dangerous for me and the group, and disrespectful to the mountain itself. Hence, I made sure to prepare as best as I can.

It was still dark when I opened my eyes. But the light was taking over as we moved. It was a good morning :) The light takes over every morning, is that not enough reason to say that the world is perfect?

Trek Proper

The trail started of as a wide plain, and then there was a 2 hrs of river trekking with few rock climbing. Afterwards was a continuous 1-2 hours of pure assault and sharp cogon grasses to the summit.

Wide Trail

River trekking

Roped segment

I got blisters on my feet soon after starting the trek. Afterwards I got several cuts on my hand and arms from the cogon grasses. Nearing the summit, I felt bruises on my shoulder from the pack that I was carrying. And although my knees don't hurt yet, I feel its clicking already.

"Am I losing the bet?" I thought.

For a moment, I was actually scared to lose the bet to myself. It was a sudden realization of what I wanted to accomplish at that moment.

But I still haven't lost The Bet...

I requested for a quick stop to change into my rubber shoes to relieve the pain from the blisters. I rolled up my arm sleeves to protect myself from cuts. I fixed my knee support. I gulped some water, and breathed out, "I'm still in the bet."

I was now more careful with my steps. I tried to distribute the weight of my body correctly. I used my upper body whenever possible. This is perhaps the most mindful I've been ever since I started hiking.

The summit was within sight, so I calmed my mind to avoid unnecessary fatigue from stress.

Summit and Ubod Falls

We passed by Cardiac Trail to and from the summit, but to be honest I do not remember which part is it, since I feel most part of the trail made my heart pumped fast anyway. Not that I'm complaining - I like that feeling of being so alive anyway :D

We took some photos in the summit, and headed down to a place with shade to have lunch. I was so hungry that I did not enjoy the summit that much.

Sab in the summit, Oye!

View from the summit

Tree (Reminds me of the tree on Tarak Ridge Summit)

After having lunch, we headed to Ubod Falls. The trail from here was mostly river trekking and bits of rock climbing. I had mini heart attacks whenever I slipped because I didn't want to jump forcefully and cause any strain on my lower body.

I'm still in the bet after all.

Ubod Falls is breathtaking. I remember gasping when I saw it. I was sooo amazed. I hear the rushing water from the top, and chill from the cold breeze it produced. All my senses awoken at that time.

It was beautiful.


Ubod Falls

Group shot!

Expenses

Bus from Victory Liner Cubao to Tarlac and vice versa - P404
Tryk from Camiling to Papaac - P30/head
Tryk from Papaac to Camiling - P50/head (more expensive at night)
Guide fee - P500 / 5 headcount
Registration fee - P20

Hiking Notes

Wear thin arm sleeves during summer to protect yourself from sharp cogon grasses and not feel too hot. Also wear open finger gloves, pants/leggings, and thick socks if you're like me who gets wounded easily

Bring headlamp if there's a possibility of your team getting delayed with the trek.

Always be extra careful and guarded - it's very easy to slip and be seriously injured during river trekking.

Epilogue

Of course I won the bet :)
I'm not the betting kind, but I guess I'll bet on myself anytime.

(c) Miguel

January 8, 2017

Just Keep on Walking (Mt. Tangisan Dayhike)

I opened my eyes, and I was still on a tricycle bound to Mt. Tangisan. I was about to close my eyes again when I noticed the beautiful surroundings - the sky so blue, clouds white and puffy, breeze cold and refreshing. "Good morning indeed!"

At the jumpoff

Mt. Tangisan is one of the mountains that make up San Jose Circuit, a 17-18km loop mountain trail in Tarlac. Loop trail means your entry point is same as your exit point, but the trail you follow is different - unlike in backtrail wherein you just trace back your way. Since the group wanted a chill climb, we only trekked Mt. Tangisan.

Mt. Tangisan, Tarlac

Mt Tangisan trail is exposed, and is a mix of loose soil, tall cogon grasses, and cow dung. Nonetheless, the views of rice paddies and nearby provinces are spectacular - Mt Arayat can be seen towering the horizon from a distance.

Obstructed View (hehe) from Mt Tangisan Summit

The trek to the summit took us about 2 hrs with moderate stops for rest and picture taking. Overall (on a not-so-sunny-but-no-rain day), Mt. Tangisan climb is a pretty straightforward climb - just keep on walking and you'll reach the summit - no crawling, spelunking, rolling, rock climbing, river crossing, mud sliding, etc. Just keep on walking.


Mt. Tangisan Summit

Getting There and Expenses

- P204 - Bus from Five Star Cubao to Siesta (Bus bound to Dagupan but not via TPLEX)
- P600 / 2 pax - Roundtrip tricycle ride from Siesta to Jumpoff and vice versa
- P350 / 6 pax - Guide fee for 1 mountain dayhike

Tips 

- Beware of cogon grasses and amor seco. Wear sleeves or pants if you can so you avoid itching.
- No need for river crossing (contrary to most blogs) anymore because they erected a bridge already
- No washroom in jumpoff because the water pipelines haven't been setup - bring wet wipes if you want freshen up after the climb
- The road to the jumpoff is rough so better charter a jeepney rather than tricycle from Siesta to jumpoff.

December 11, 2016

Quarterlife & Travel Notes for Hongkong & Macau

Brown skinned, curly haired, small girl with a big backpack and bulky sandals - that's me! And with very pretty eyes too no? ^_^  hey this is my blog! and it's my late birthday post, haha!

High rise buildings, huge designer brand billboards, bright lights, stylish people with fair skin and chinky eyes! (-_-)  that's my first close up look of Hongkong. One look, and it seems right for me to feel different and out of place, but there is none of that anymore.

Like the flow of water, uninterrupted, I walk a path that is mine alone. I am not an outsider nor a visitor. These roads, at this exact moment, are present only for me. I am expected :)

Photo is actually in Macau (bec I cant find HK street photo from my album)

A. Accommodation

I read a lot of negative reviews about Chungking Mansion being dodgy and "unsafe" so I was concerned. But upon reaching the place,  it wasn't scary at all. People were bothered of the Indian men hustling around the neighborhood - I actually found them rather lively and amusing - a place for people watching! Perhaps I am used to such places as it resembled Manila - where people hustle like that daily. You just smile and say no firmly to them if you aren't interested and they will move on to their next sale - you can even ask them for directions as they get around and are mostly street smart. If any, what bothered me about Chungking Mansion is their shower heaters - it is damn hard to set.

But if you'd like to do a bit of staycation, do not stay here coz it would feel suffocating. Only stay here if you know that it's just a place to sleep, and if you're okay to say "oh well I don't care, will just sleep and go have fun outside later"

Tip: Bring universal adapter just in case the hostel has no adapter - HK sockets are for round plugs and not the flat ones we have in PH.

 B. Getting Around

Since I was on a DIY trip, I bought an Octopus card [150 HKD + 100 HKD reload], which is a reloadable card that you can use to pay in trains, buses, and even convenience stores. I also bought  a local sim card to subscribe to internet [80 HKD / 5days]

With an Octopus card and internet connection, almost all places in Hongkong is easy to reach - even for first time visitors who do not speak the language. You can buy both Octopus card and local simcard in the airport and have the staff subscribe you to unlimited internet - although most places have free and reliable wifi anyway.

Tips:

- Check online for mobile apps that can help you get around - for example in HK, there is MTR app, or OpenRice for restos, or Google Translate, etc.
- Buses are numbered so just ask which bus goes to your stop or near it. Bus to and from airport/TST is A21

C. Itinerary

1. Lion Rock Peak [Free]

This is not the lion rock formation, but it looks like a lion head to me, dont you think so?

I followed this blog: http://thisgirlabroad.com/lion-rock-hike/ for directions from MTR to jumpoff, and then I just asked around for the way back from Lion Rock. The trail is a mix of concrete or paved stairway, hence it can be strenuous for the knees.


The view throughout the trail is spectacular, it paints you a picture of a highly urbanized city in the center of the mountains.

Lion Rock Peak

The whole trek from MTR and back took me around 4 hours. Along the way, I bumped into several nice people - One man walked with me to the correct jump off because I apparently passed by it and missed it. A girl gave me a candy on the way up. A couple passed by me and cheered me on - they said "Fighting!" Awwiee how cute no <3 Hahaha! A family who overheard me asking for direction drew a map for me. An old lady actually chased me to tell me I was going the wrong way. She honestly scared me at first because she seemed really mad, and I couldn't figure why as we were only talking in sign language. Eventually, my heart felt really warm because of these people's concern for a stranger like I am.

What a happy day indeed :)

2. Tian Tan Buddha / Po Lin Monastery / Ngong Ping Village [Free]

The 360 cable car to Ngong Ping was on scheduled maintenance that day so I took Bus 23 to Ngong Ping instead. Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, and Ngong Ping Village are all in one vicinity. Tian Tan Buddha is a giant Buddha statue that sits atop a mountain in Ngong Ping. It was created by the monks of Po Lin monastery in 1990. It is my favorite place in HK/Macau!

Tian Tan Buddha from a distance

The moment I saw the Buddha, I became still. I was so mesmerized by its beauty that I fell silent the whole time. I did not dare move or talk because I might end up distracting myself. It was such a spiritual moment - as if my soul was smiling. I was calm, yet I could feel tremendous happiness for no reason. My heart was really happy. I am really happy.

Ngong Ping Village - closing already
Po Lin Monastery

3. Symphony of  Lights every 8pm as seen from Victoria Harbour [Free]

Symphony of Lights is a 13 minute lights and sound show making use of laser beams with the high rise buildings and the sky as its canvass. The city's skyscraper is really impressive!

After Symphony of Lights - HK Skyscraper

Tip: Get there early so you get a good spot to take photos.

4. Temple Street Night Market [Free]

This night market felt stuffy for me. The place sure is vibrant, with lots of street food and merchandise, but it felt expensive for a street market. IDK it was probably me converting everything to PHP in my head.

Tip: If there are no prices in the restaurant's menu (especially for the spicy chili crab), you may have leeway to haggle. But the taste of the crab wasn't even that special and it costed my friend and I almost 300HKD just for crab and rice.

5. Around Tsim Sha Tsui [Mostly Free]

There are lots of places you can visit around TST: Avenue of Stars, Kowloon Park, Science Museum, Art Museum, History Museum, and different malls, boutiques, and even convenience stores. I absolutely enjoyed HK Museum of History and Science Museum - very interactive and interestingly laid out!

Tip: All museums are free entrance on Wednesdays.

Mural at Avenue of Stars

6. Around Central and Hongkong Island [Free]

A friend wouldn't have it that I don't get to ride a tram during my visit so she took us to Hongkong Island and Central (the city's Business district) to ride a tram (ding ding!). It is like a hybrid of double decker bus and train. It's fascinating! Tram is slow and quite old, and the windows are open so it is a relaxing ride for me.


She also brought us to hole-in-wall restaurants with definitely tastier food than the ones I tried prior. These restos do not have translation though so she had to do all the ordering for us - thanks, Fanny! Yoda best!

Missed you, Fanny!!! 


Got to try boiled isaw (pork intestines - see the orange ones below.) It was surprisingly good - even if it was just boiled! Guess I really am a die hard isaw fan, but grilled and fried are still kings! Mehehe.

Isaw and Roast Duck

Afterwards, we dropped by the observatory wheel, and International Commerce Center - the tallest building in HK. Then we took a ferry back to TST.

Hongkong Observatory Wheel

International Commerce Center (ICC)

7. Macau [Mostly Free, main cost is the ferry ride]

Macau is just a ferry away from Hongkong. Some places of interest are the casinos, Senado Square, St. Paul Ruins, Monte Fortress, and A-Ma Temple. This is for Macau Peninsular. There is also Inner Macau where Macau Tower is.

St. Paul Ruins

Grand Lisboa

Since it was raining during my visit, I enjoyed playing in the casinos more than the sights outdoors. I didn't get how the slot machines worked, but it was fun because somehow we won. Yey!

Tips

- You can buy cheaper ferry tickets in agencies - the one inside the mall (Ming Sing Tours) beside Turbo Jet official ticket store is legit. Got mine at 300 HKD round trip
- Have exact change for buses. Taxis are somewhat cheap too.
- There are free shuttle service to the casinos, but not really back to the airport as you have to sign up for a membership card (at least for Grand Lisboa)

8. Others

If I had more time and if the weather permitted, I would have tried Disneyland, Victoria Peak, Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region, and Maclehose Trail too - oh well #ReasonsToGoBack!

D. General Travel Notes

- It is better to exchange PHP to HKD here in Manila than in HK. And if you are already in HK, better exchange in the city forex stores than in airport.

- Paying with your BPI credit card only has 1.75% charge, and conversion rate is dependent on VISA/Mastercard forex rate on date of purchase. That is cheap! But do not forget to tell the store to charge you in their local currency instead of converting to PHP.

- Water is expensive and is not free in restaurants. One 800 mL water from 7-11 costed me around P200.

- Food cost is a little more than double compared with PH prices. My average Mcdo Meal in HK costed around P300+

- Almost all attractions are free, my expenses are mostly transportation, food, and accommodation.

- For pasalubong or souvenir, imported chocolates and biscuits are cheaper than local delicacies.

- My total spending for 5 days 4 nights is around 13k, no airfare. I could have done 10k if I had not bought dollars in HK airport.

- You can return your MTR card to get back the deposit of 50 HKD and also the remaining value. I have almost 100 HKD left but since I had no time to drop by the MTR counter and return my Octopus card, goodbye 100 dollars T.T

- Look at this map for places of interest for my HK and Macau trip: https://drive.google.com/openid=1wc775X0U3gCc9EQ1oHioe9y9x3Q&usp=sharing

Quarterlife, and I no longer feel restless :)

There is no more differentiation - there is only  peace and the feeling of being at home wherever I go. At last after 25 years, I finally come into terms with myself. I have become comfortable with my own  skin. Congratulations, Arlet! And obviously, it is a happy birthday for me. Thank you, universe!

Cheers!
Arlet

PS

I've been looking for a salted lemon candy like the one in the photo below, but can't find it. Aww.

Thanks to the ate who gave me this candy while on the Lion Rock Trail :)