Saturday, October 25, 2014

Beyond BSB

One of the things that one has to consider when travelling to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) is their day of prayer. We were there on a Friday, a day devoted to prayer  so the mosques were off-limits to non-Muslims and the opening hours of the other places we wanted to see in BSB was likewise limited. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All That Glitters in Bandar Seri Begawan

When friends learned that my family and I were going to Brunei, the common question I got was "Is everything in that country really made of gold?" That I had to find out. So here's how our day went in the country's capital.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend in Brunei

Brunei Darussalam is one of the countries that is close to home but which I only got to visit recently.  We took the midnight plane and we were in our destination in almost two hours. It was just like flying to Davao City.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Chocolate Chamber

On a trip to Cebu, my friend CM suggested that we try TCC. After several calls and Google Map searches, we found this cozy nook tucked in a quiet neighborhood, a stone's throw away from Sarrosa Hotel and a few steps from Abaseria.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rediscovering Manila

Several weeks ago, a friend came over to visit and she very much wanted to rediscover the charm of Manila. And explore we did.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Another Tagaytay Weekend: Amazed, Puzzled

My cousins were here for a week so we decided to spend the weekend in Tagaytay. A couple of my cousins haven't been to the city in a long time while another cousin who frequented the Southern Luzon region in the years past before moving to the US, surprisingly, hasn't been to Tagaytay ever.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Family Staycation in Nuvali

When we are so caught up with the hustle and bustle of the city life and the different levels of stress brought by work, a beautiful staycation is an immediate cure.

A recommended staycation is a weekend in Nuvali. It is situated in Santa Rosa, Laguna and is a short drive from Manila. We had a wonderful stay at the recently opened Seda Hotel and took in the fresh air and the greens around Nuvali.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pantabangan: Picturesque Reservoir

In the town of Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija is a postcard-pretty lake which serves as a reservoir of the Pantabangan Dam. There is that sense of calmness and serenity just by staring at the bluish-green water under a clear blue sky and fluffy white clouds. This reservoir is said to be one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Action-Packed Aurora Weekend

A trip to the province of Aurora won't be complete without riding the waves. I got to do just that, one off my bucket list, plus my friends and I managed to see the Ditumabo Falls in San Luis.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Sights and Flavours of Aurora

It has been a tradition in the Pink Family to celebrate our birthdays together. No one in the group was a May celebrator. So in our attempt to have our last hurrah for the summer, JT had an early celebration (his birthday wasn't until June) and our destination of choice was Baler.

Our long journey to Baler started at almost close to midnight together with Alain Calderon (our host and guide) and a trusted driver. Cramped in the van, some of us slept while the others just couldn't keep their eyes shut. Midway, we made a quick stop to do some stretching and answer the call of nature. It was daybreak by the time we reached Baler.

Sunrise in Baler

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shooting the Rapids En Route to the Falls in Laguna

I spent my childhood and teenage summers in Laguna but never in those years had I set foot in the town of Pagsanjan or Cavinti or even laid eyes on the famed falls of Laguna (which even became a subject of my cousin's painting and featured in an Italian art book).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Around Laguna

I spent a chunk of my childhood summers and college weekends in Laguna. Having relatives who have moved to this Southern Tagalog province had me exploring the towns (yes, because these were towns back then) of San Pedro, Biñan, Santa Rosa, Calamba and Los Baños. But that was it, I only saw the western part of this province. That there was another world on the other side of Laguna de Bay which I only got to explore recently.

One of the busy streets in Liliw, Laguna

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kamay ni Hesus in the Quezon Province

Apart from the Pahiyas Festival, people (mostly Catholics) flock to Quezon to visit the Kamay na Hesus Shrine. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Learn and Have Fun at GK Enchanted Farm

During the bloggers weekend at the GK Enchanted Farm, we got to attend three demonstration sessions: chocolate making, cheese making and stuffed toy making. 

Loco over Choco

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Weekend at GK Enchanted Farm

I woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning, looking forward to a farm weekend in Bulacan and explore a new place, make new friends and learn something new.

Destination: The GK Enchanted Farm in Barangay Encanto, Angat, Bulacan.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Transformation at the GK Enchanted Farm

There was a huge tract of land where no one dared to tread. It was inhabited by rebels and criminals. The land itself was infertile, having been quarried like there's no tomorrow. But thanks to a group of people whose love for the Philippines and the Filipinos is bigger than the size of the human heart. This once forsaken land is now home to around fifty households, farms, budding social enterprises, people under entrepreneurial mentorship and volunteers coming from different countries.

Welcome to the GK Enchanted Farm!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Saigon Diaries - Around Ho Chi Minh City

Day 3

It was the last day of our stay in Vietnam and we decided to see Ho Chi Minh City as much as we can. Our first stop was the War Remnants Museum.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Saigon Diaries - Dining Al Fresco and Coffee for Nightcap

For our second night in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), we had no idea where we would be having dinner. Well, we came up with a list but these were quite a distance from our hotel. And we were just too tired after a whole day of travelling (being cooped inside the coaster can be tiring, too). So our group decided to walk the whole block from our hotel in search of dining places (although the hotel serves dinner, we opted to dine out).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Saigon Diaries - Of War and Peace

Day 2

Our second day in Viet Nam has brought us again outside of the Ho Chi Minh City. Our first stop was a production area where people who have suffered from Agent Orange during the Vietnam War create art pieces such as paintings, life-sized figurines and bric-a-bracs, to name a few. Part of the proceeds is for the benefit of the victims of Agent Orange.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Saigon Diaries - Night of Pho and Market

Night fell as we entered Ho Chi Minh. And as expected, the city was in a rhythmic chaos during rush hour with scooters, cars and buses just making their presence felt everywhere, inching their way in major thoroughfares.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Saigon Diaries - Mekong Delta Tour

Day 1

It was midnight (Viet Nam time) when our group arrived in Ho Chi Minh. After breezing through the immigration, we immediately went straight for the money changer counter just near the arrival exit. The next moment, we were already inside the van arranged by our hotel. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Taiwan at Random

Here are some random shots during our weekend trip in Taiwan:

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

Taiwan | Gastronomic Heaven

If I am to be asked about my favourite in Taiwan, I'd have to say it is enjoying the gastronomic feasts. From the food being sold down the streets and in the night markets, to the hot pots served in a cozy place to the weird and outrageous edible servings you could imagine. It's the small eats and the piping hot dishes that I've come to love, a motley of culinary influences.

Night Market in Taoyuan

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Taiwan | Quick Sightseeing in Taipei

We spent most of our time in cities and towns north of Taiwan that we only got to see Taipei a few hours before we left the country. It was definitely a whirlwind sightseeing of the country's capital.

Our first stop was the Taipei 101, once the tallest structure in the world in 2004 until 2009. Now, its bragging right is being the tallest green structure.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Taiwan | Yehliu Park

In New Taipei City in the northernmost part of Taiwan is a natural gem that will definitely blow you away. If the United States has the Grand Canyon, Taiwan has Yehliu Geopark with the vast blue ocean as backdrop.

The Yehliu Geopark features a beautiful geological landscape on a cape in the north of Taiwan. Such wonder of nature was formed over time through sea erosion, earth movement, weathering of rocks and the crashing of mighty waves against the land mass. Let your imagination work and run wild!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Taiwan | Night Market in Taoyuan

One of the must-do when in Taiwan is to visit a night market. From the clusters of entrepreneurs selling their wares on the streets, night markets have evolved and are now tourist destinations. The more popular ones are found in Taipei. Since we were based in Taoyuan, we visited one night market in that city.

Taiwan | A Beautiful Respite in Longtan

Somewhere in Taoyuan is an area called Longtan, known for being a place for retirement. One of its famous attractions is the Longtan Lake or Pond where a dragon boat race is held every year. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Taiwan | Cihu Mausoleum

Nestled in a nature park in Taoyuan is the resting place of Taiwan's former leader Chiang Kai-shek.  He was fond of this place  and spent a lot of time here  because it reminded him of his hometown Fenghua. A guesthouse was established which was named Cihu Guesthouse in memory of the president's mother who was benevolent and kind (cihu=benevolent). When the former leader passed away, he was entombed in the guesthouse which is now known as the Cihu Musoleum. 

Taiwan | Shihmen Reservoir

The Shihmen Reservoir is located in Taouyuan. It is one of the biggest reservoirs in Taiwan which provides water supply to the northern part of the country. Today, the reservoir has become not just a source of water supply but also a tourist destination itself. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Taiwan | From Fisherman's Wharf to Tamsui

It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Fisherman's Wharf.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Taiwan | Sakura in Bloom

While many flock to Japan, China or South Korea during spring to see the cherry blossoms in bloom, I was lucky to have seen it again (my first time was in Sweden in the spring of 2007), this time in Taiwan, particularly in Jinguashi.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Taiwan | The Gold Rush in Jinguashi

If California had its gold rush, Taiwan isn't far behind. Jinguashi, an area near Jiufen, was once a gold and copper mining place. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Taiwan | Meandering through the Alleys of Jiufen

Jiufen is a village up in the mountain of New Taipei City with narrow, steep roads and alleys. I am surprised by the volume of tourists that flock to this place. But who wouldn't be charmed by the quaintness of Jiufen, the cool temperature and the beautiful view of the ocean?


Friday, May 16, 2014

Taiwan On My Mind

Just north of the Philippines and close to Batanes is the beautiful island of Formosa, now know as Taiwan. I remember a trivia back in high school that the crow of a rooster at dawn in Batanes can be heard in Taiwan. Given the proximity, there might be probably some truth to it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

And the Stegesund Island Beckons Again

Stegesund is one of the many islands in the Swedish archipelago. It is close to Stockholm and just across Vaxholm. It can be reached by passenger boat from the capital city or by bus (No. 670) and a boat from Vaxholm. While in Sweden, I frequented this island during springtime to prepare the house for the summer months, and autumn to board up the house and plant the tulips that will be in full bloom come spring and summer.  The century-old summer house which has become a temporary abode for me is one of my favourite places on earth. Who wouldn't fall in love with the old charm and cozy vibe of the house which overlooks a body of water and is nestled in the woods? Plus, the owners of the house are such lovely hosts.

Enjoy this montage of the island of Stegesund. And special thanks to Åke, Thure, Joel and their furball Freja.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Stockholm, My Stockhome!

Whenever I am asked what my favourite foreign city is, in a heartbeat I'd say Stockholm. It's the city where I stayed the longest (almost a year for my studies at the Stockholm University), where I immediately adapted to the daily grind of the locals who are oftentimes stereotyped as aloof and cold (No, they're not. They are just not nosy since they value their personal space but they are one of the most engaging conversationalists I've met), where I learned to to live on my own and fend for myself. But most of all, Stockholm has become my (Stock)home because of the people I met who eventually have become my lifelong friends and the many beautiful memories we  have made together.

So what do I miss about Stockholm?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hej igen, Stockholms!

It took me five long years to finally step again on Swedish soil. It felt so good to be back in my favourite foreign city. The weather was in a mood, swinging forth from heavy rains to overcast sky to a bit of sunshine. But that didn't stop me from enjoying this homecoming of sorts.

It was raining when I arrived at the Arlanda Airport and my good friend and fellow Waray Joel Bagon was there to pick me up. After settling at their elegant flat on Norr Mälarstrand, we immediately roamed the streets of Stockholm. We walked and walked and walked. It was just lovely to see Stockholm again in the midst of the rains and the changing of seasons from summer to autumn.

It was also comforting to hear the Swedish language, see familiar signs  and visit the places I frequented. And what's an afternoon in Stockholm without the traditional fika

But what made this short trip to Stockholm more memorable was meeting most of my friends, people who have become a big part of my almost a year stay in Sweden (but that deserves a separate post).

I've compiled photos from this trip in this video. Enjoy and for those who miss Stockholm, let's have a dose of nostalgia.

Big thanks to Joel, Åke and Dr. T for the warm hospitality.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Waterloo and Napoleon's Last Stand

Waterloo is a town in Belgium, about an hour's ride from the capital Brussels on board the bus W. It is a relatively quiet community with shops and points of interest that are within reach.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waffles and Chocolate in Brugge

As I was navigating my way back to the train station, I found myself again in a heavy downpour that I had to immediately take shelter. I hurried down the cobbled street looking for a dry spot until I saw a quaint shop offering a cup of hot chocolate. I got in and instead of having a take-away, I decided to stay inside the cafe to keep myself dry and wait for the rains to stop.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Visita Iglesia the Brugge Way

One of the things I did while in Brugge was to visit churches and there were lots of them. Hence, the trip also turned into a Visita Iglesia.

St. Salvator's Cathedral

This is the first church you'll see coming from the train station and it's close to the city center.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Beautiful Brugge

Some say this place is over-rated; others say it's a tourist trap. But I just find Brugge beautiful and picturesque. I am simply drawn to its old world charm.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Of Mussels, Potato Fries and Beer

A visit to Brussels won't be complete without indulging in their must-eat dish moules-frites which means mussels and fries.

Mr. Romy Gle took me to Chez Leon, a very popular place to have moules-frites, so popular that it was packed and we thought we'd never get a table. Luckily, we did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Breezing Through Brussels

After six hours of train ride and passing through three countries and several cities, I finally arrived in Brussels.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Choo Choo Train: Switzerland...Germany...Belgium

I love train rides. There is just something about it that makes it magical. The hustle and bustle when changing trains (hoping against hope that I won't miss my next connection). The beautiful architecture in every station. The different personalities I meet and the scenarios I witness during the ride. The scenery from my window seat while reading a book, listening to some music or writing on my travel journal. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Taste of Swiss

In the midst of our walk around Zurich, Nicole and I decided to have coffee at Cafe Odeon, an institution not just in Zurich but in Switzerland. Imagine the likes of Albert Einstein, James Joyce, Klaus Mann, Lenin and Mussolini, to name a few who frequented this hub in their respective lifetimes. This cafe must have been their solace, their nook, their happy place.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Zurich, A Brief Encounter

Zurich. I remember how my brother reacted to my choice of city in Switzerland. "Why Zurich? It can be boring there. There's not much to see since it's a financial hub. Better go to Geneva or Lucerne." But I stood by my choice because I know that I'll find the place interesting beyond the stereotype. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Scenes From Basel to Zurich

Given my limited time, I was able to squeeze in Zurich in my itinerary. I was also fortunate that Nicole Bataclan, someone I met and came to know a few years back in Stockholm, was currently in Zurich. So we decided to meet and see the city with her as my tour guide.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Afternoon by the Rhine in Basel

A highlight of my stay in Basel was spending an afternoon by the River Rhine.  There was something calming about it,  sitting by the bank and watching the currents, the boats that passed by, the beautiful architecture across the river and the people whiling their time away.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Around Basel

It isn't difficult to figure out Basel. The place can be explored on foot. Or for tourist spots which are quite a distance from the city center, there is always the tram to make moving about easier. And for lesser carbon footprint, there are bicycles commonly used by the locals.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hello, Switzerland!

I have always wanted to see Switzerland, the land of cheese, chocolate and timepiece, but never got to during my past trips because it meant having to apply for a separate visa. But finally, Switzerland has become a part of the Schengen agreement which means that the country can now be included in the European itinerary without the worries of applying for a separate visa.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Till Then, Gummersbach!

Two weeks flew by so fast and our seminar came to its conclusion. We have learned so much from our speakers, from our field trips and more from the interaction with our co-participants and facilitators. It was truly a fun and enriching experience.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Around Dresden

For a couple of days, we had the chance to see the city of Dresden in Germany. They say that Dresden can be likened to Manila during the World War II as the city was also bombed during the same period. So let me  show you around Dresden through these photos. 

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