Category Archives: Around The World

El Nido Getaway 2015!

The PAGASA has announced that rainy season has started already. Summer may be over,  but I had a meaningful rest and recreation during the Holy Week when Vimala and I went to El Nido, Palawan. It is dubbed as the Best Beach Destination in the Philippines, and true enough, it is something worth the travel. Vimala is my Indonesian best friend who came to the Philippines just to visit me, so I chose to bring her to El Nido.

El Nido lies in northeast Palawan. The main gateway to this paradise is Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Vie and I was able to book an AirAsia flight in the morning of April 1, we arrived by lunch time, had a quick break and took the van to El Nido. It took us about 5 hours before we arrive in the small town of El Nido.

5 star custome service, affordable and comfortable

Vie and I have been travelling together since our Korea days, and we are very particular with the hotel/inn we’re staying at. In El Nido, we were able to book Swiftlets Inn. It is a relatively new hotel, originally with just 4 rooms. Upon arrival in El Nido, we were dropped off at the terminal, took the tricycle (50 pesos) and checked-in. We were surprised that they have a new floor with additional 4 rooms. We were booked in room 7, which is really spacious, with clean bed linens and a bathroom where you can freely move. They also got a flat screen TV and power plugs all over the room (a must nowadays!) What’s a plus point of this hotel is it is strategically located in the middle of El Nido; 3 minutes from terminal and 5-7 minutes walk from downtown. And free breakfast! You are also far from the noise in the streets. The customer service is pleasing, we had a really good stay here. You can check TripAdvisor for other reviews here.

Awe-inspiring, breathtaking 

We booked for Tour A and Tour C for the island hopping. For Day 2, we started with Tour C because there was the news of a typhoon coming, and since Tour C is farther, we went there first. We had a very kind tour guide and boat men, so we felt secure all the time.

The first destination was the Helicopter island, with that name because it looks like an helicopter from afar. This is the inspiration for the movie The Beach. It is a good place for snorkeling.

My favorite though is Star beach, where we stayed longer because we had lunch here. The boat men prepared the lunch, with seafood overload! 😀

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After Starbeach, we went to Secret Island. The name fits because you need to enter a small rocky entrance before getting in. It was our least favorite – it is too crowded. One foreigner even said “It’s chaos over here!” Haha!

Then Matinloc Shrine. It is a small island with a huge house that was abandoned. We went up to see the captivating view of the ocean.

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We were able to return in El Nido proper by 4pm. After a fun day (we got tanned!), we decided to walk to the hotel. We tried the Crepes and it was good. Go grab something as snack.

The following day, we were booked for Tour A. The good thing about our travel agency (Create Tours) is that they pick us from our hotel via a motorcycle. Oh diba may sundo pa! After our sumptuous free breakfast, we were fueled to enjoy the rest of El Nido.

Tour A goes to Small and Big Lagoons, Secret beach and Seven Commandos Beach.

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Small lagoon is enjoyable via kayaking (300 pesos). But it also gets crowded. I love Big lagoon better (in the photo), though we didn’t stop to swim because it was low tide.

Swimming with Nemo and Friends

One of the highlights of my El Nido trip is my snorkeling experience for the first time. I love beaches but I can’t really swim in deep waters. But one of our tour guides, the 18 year old Richard told me “Mam, akong bahala sayo I will hold you.” Naks! Pero true enough, he helped me. He was the one holding the Go Pro we rented (1,000 pesos) then took these beautiful photos. I was amazed at God’s wonderful creation deep down.

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Tour A  ended in Seven Commando’s beach. It is a huge one, with cottages and a restaurant. Vie and I was able to rest and enjoy; she joined a bunch of tourists playing volleyball.

We arrived in El Nido proper at around 5pm then rested in the hotel. Then my college friend Ate Rej texted me to go to Las Cabanas resort because no one should miss the El Nido sunset. It was almost 6 so I rushed and took a tricycle (150 pesos). Whew! It was a beautiful sunset.

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 Restaurants to try

We did not crave much seafood because the lunch during the tours is just crazy awesome – squid, grilled fish, shrimps and mussels. So when we were at downtown, we decided to check two restaurants for dinner – Art Cafe and Altrove Trattoria. Both are really good and affordable. In Art Cafe, we tried their paella while we had pasta and the oven-made pizza in Altrove. The vibe in these restaurants is cozy and comfy, good to cap a day of beach hopping.

Go and save for El Nido trip!

Look for seat sale and book a ticket! The Philippines is such a beautiful place, with nice beaches and people. But the experience in every travel is worth every penny. I will share to you how much it cost me to enjoy this wonderful creation:

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Thanks, El Nido! It was a blast! 🙂

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P.S. All photos do not have edits. See, ganda talaga sa El Nido!

The Princess wannabe in the Land of the Brave!

As promised in my previous blog, I will share how beautiful Scotland is during my visit in July 2011. Scotland does not exist in my Dream Destination list, and I still don’t understand why God keep sending me to Europe (I am not complaining hehe I’m just wondering ;)).

So there, on July 6 we flew to Edinburgh. We allotted three days before the start of the World Conference for the tour around Scotland. We arrived at night, but it was my first time ever to see the sun around 8pm. Cool, eh? Europe was telling me “This is really the other side of the world.”

On our first day, the first agenda was to see Loch Lomond, which is the biggest lake in Great Britain by surface area.

This is a postcard-ish photo which I took after being captivated by the beauty of the landscape:

As you can see the sky was on the verge of crying. But we’re fortunate that it was after we left that the rain started to pour. We stayed in a Fish N’ Chips restaurant during the downpour and enjoyed the lunch.

Next stop was Stirling! I love the place because it was only that day that I first saw a castle.

Tanaaaaan!

The Doune Castle!

And the Stirling Castle from a far! (With my big face hahaha)

The next day, we headed to St. Andrews, a small town but now a famous spot because of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

St. Andrews University

Just across the university is the coffee shop where the two met (So giddy because I always want to meet “my man” in a coffee shop haha ;))

One of the Tita’s asked us single ladies if we want to stay longer and wait for our “Prince”. We already finished our coffee, but no one came. 🙁

St. Andrews is a small town but the it is very vibrant with happy people roaming around.

The rest of our days was spent in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. There are bagpipers on the street, red telephone booths, and those buildings with unique architecture.

 

 

I always love to go to different places to appreciate God’s wonders. His creation is beyond any explanation. But every time I go outside the country, I see it as an opportunity to appreciate my beloved country more. I may not have all these riches, but our culture is still deemed with high respect. Proud akong sa Pilipinas ako pinanganak.

These are memories painted to last forever. One day, I will show show this photos to my children and proudly say “God brought me there.”

P.S #1: It was an inter-generational trip. Not your usual barkada gimmick. I was with Tita’s from the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. Kyla and I were the only bagets, as you may say. But it didn’t spoil the fun, it actually made the entire trip a happy experience. During the trip, I often find myself laughing with their jokes, and they are as energetic as youngsters walking and walking around. In every trip having a cool and fun company makes all the difference.

P.S #2: Tita Inday has a friend there in Edinburgh, a couple with a 6 year-old son named Michael. For two days, Michael became my “boyfriend” 😀 and didn’t let me walk alone because he wanted to always hold my hand. Hahaha! Such a cutie and bibo boy!

 

 

 

Samgyeopsal all-you-can in Sinchon!

If you ask me what is my favourite Korean food, my tummy and heart would agree that samgyeopsal tops the list. Maybe because it was the first Korean food I tried here, or because of the frequency of eating the Korean barbecue that I have conditioned my mind “This is the best.”

My friends and I go to the BBQ restaurant near our school until we discovered this haven in Sinchon. Seoul National University is so far from downtown Seoul, we have to travel at least an hour to reach that place. But that is always worth the time.

So here in this restaurant (which I actually don’t know if it has any name, we just call it “THE Unli BBQ place”), you enter, choose where you’ll be seating for two hours or more, then go to the bar and get any meat you want.

This is inside the “restaurant”. It is not that fancy,well-lit, foodie haven that you expect. It is small, but I think this is close enough to what we normally see in the Korean dramas, where the actors would drink Soju ’till the credits. 😀 And as the tarpaulin displays, it is 8,000 won per person (around 7 dollars, and 300 pesos).

Beef, chicken, shrimp, or pork; you’ll be the one to surrender. 

Samgyeopsal won’t be complete without these sauces. My favorite is the one on bottom left, it is called ssamjang.

This is how the pan on my table looked like tonight! YUMMY!

One secret to make the samgyeopsal food trip really enjoyable: bring as many friends as possible. Trust me, you wouldn’t enjoy it by yourself.

So here’s the gang with whom I shared tonight’s food with:

If you happen to be in Seoul and you want to experience the real food trippin’, try to go to this place. Your tummy would be satisfied without hurting your pocket.

How to go there: Subway Line 2 (Green Line) Sinchon station, go to exit number 2. Walk straight for 10 minutes until you see Adidas, and T-World, then turn left. You’ll see restaurants all-lined up. On your right, you’ll see a big barbecue place, not that one 😀 but the second one. The owners are at the entrance trying to persuade the people to come. Give in and enjoy!

P.S. We came there tonight with a reason: to celebrate our good friend Johanne’s birthday. And since we’ve been coming to the restaurant in a big group, they were kind enough to give us cola and makgeoli as service. 🙂

Spring has arrived in Korea (finally!)

Since December, I’ve been hoping that time would fly and April would arrive quickly. Yes, I really thought I would die because of winter. I was looking forward to a warmer weather, since I am a lady from a tropical country where the season is just hot, and hotter.

Now, I am so giddy because of the blooming flowers and wonderful colors. Spring has finally arrived! A must during this season- a photo with the cherry blossoms!

Last week, I’ve been monitoring if the cherry trees in Yeouido are already blooming. According to the Korea Tourism Organization website, the Spring Festival was scheduled from April 13-17. I called my bestfriend here :D, 1330, and asked for update. The lady said it is quite late this year. So we had to wait until Wednesday. After class, we headed to Yeouido Park!

To get to the place where the cherry trees are lined, called Yunjungno, we had to stop at the National Assembly station. So photo-ops first with the house of the Parliament!

Yeah, I can finally  wear a skirt, and sunglasses! It was so warm that day, the temperature reached 22 degrees celsius!

Yunjungno lies at the back of the National Assembly. So we had to walk for 10 minutes to get there. We started seeing a lot of people and then the trees with white blossoms!

Beautiful. Wala nito sa Pilipinas eh!

There was a traditional dance at the center of the road. Good thing was they actually closed the road for vehicles, so the people can actually enjoy.

One thing I noticed there was that majority of the people were actually Koreans. So eventhough they see this every year, they still look forward to seeing the cherry blossoms.

I won’t have any beach photos this summer, like what my friends are posting in Facebook. But I’ve got photos with the Spring blossoms. I will never forget this. I only saw those trees in movies, but I this year I had the chance to see them closely. I am blessed! 🙂

P.S. On our way back to the subway station, I saw this that made me miss home!

Yes, they also have “dirty ice cream”. We call this “sorbetes” in the Philippines, which roam around almost everywhere around this time of the year. It is Summer back home.

Jeonju: Where Tradition meets Modernity

I am really into an intensive Master’s program that’s why I don’t always have the luxury to go to FAR places here in Korea. Far means somewhere outside Seoul (actually I even seldom go around Seoul). But when I have the very rare opportunity, I seize it!

In between the end of Fall semester and the start of the Winter sem last December, my friends and I were able to plan a trip outside Seoul! Yay! 😀 Actually, being a hardcore planner, I managed to prepare our DIY tour. Our destination—JEONJU!

According to my really helpful Korea Travel Guide (I suggest you grab this at any tourist information center as it is REALLY helpful), Jeonju is in southwestern area. It is in Jeollabuk-do which is 3 hours away from Seoul.

The first thing we did was to buy bus tickets. We opted to go there by bus since it is cheaper (11,000 won for one way) and also the time difference with KTX is not that big. You can buy the tickets at Nambu Bus Terminal, subway line 3.

I was the one assigned to booking our accommodation and making daily itinerary. Searching through the web was not difficult, because the city website was helpful and I actually found everything in there. You can check http://tour-eng.jeonju.go.kr for more details on what to visit and where to stay.

And there, we’re all set for an adventure!

Our day started really early, as we left our dorm around 6 a.m. We arrived at the Nambu Bus terminal around 7:00 and had to wait. When you’re travelling in Korea, you need to be keen on time. They are very strict on schedule and they left on time. Our bus departed at exactly 8:00 a.m.

We arrived at Jeonju around 11am, and went straight to the Hanok Village. We chose to ride the bus, which was a wrong move because we didn’t know where to get off. So we ended up walking, then finally rode the cab. Tip: Just take the cab from the bus terminal going to your accommodation.

The first thing we did was to EAT at the famous Bibimbap restaurant, Gajok Hwegwan 가족 회관. They claim to have the best bibimbap in Korea, and that is really true. You just need to shell out around 12,000 won for a sumptuous treat.

We headed to our accommodation after lunch. The main reason why we went to Jeonju was to experience the traditional Hanok (Korean house). I personally chose a room that has an “Ondol” or floor heating system. We ended up in Buyonghyeon, in which a room for 5 costs 150,000 won per night. There was a free breakfast served as well!

Our cozy room! It has Hanji (traditional Korean paper) wallpaper, and an LCD TV! We also have our own toilet and bath!

After resting for some time, the strolling around Hanok Village begun. Most of the places to visit are around the Hanok Village, so it is not hard and costly to check the tourist sites.

Here are some of the places you should not miss in Jeonju:

1. Jeondong Cathedral – It was established to uphold the precious will of the first Korean martyr, and is counted as the most beautiful Catholic church in Korea.

2. Pungnammun Gate – This is the most prominent cultural asset of Jeonju, which used to be one the the four gates of Jeonju city.

3.  Jeonju Hyanggyo- This used to be a Confucian school that was believed to be built up in Goryo dynasty.

4. Deokjin Park – This is centered upon the Deokjin Lake, and has lotus flowers during spring. A fountain show is also set around that time.

5. Gyeonggijeon – It is a historic site in Jeonju, which was built to enshrine the royal portrait of Taejo Seonggae Lee, the king that found the Joseon dynasty.

6. Hanokmaeul- The Jeonju Hanok Village

Just being at the Hanokmaeul made our trip already worth it. The serenity of the place, the convergence of tradition and modernity and the richness of culture preserved made the visit to the province worth remembering.

Jeonju was a great escape from the noise and stress in the city.

Have I mentioned that everything was fun during the trip because I had great friends with me? A must in every travel is a jovial spirit to keep good vibes all the way!

P.S. If you are a coffee lover (like ME!:)) you will enjoy in the Hanokmaeul because there are so many coffee shops there! We were able to try two of them and the coffee served was really good! Plus, you’ll love the antiques and interiors of the shops.