MT. PIGINGAN, AN UNDERATED PEAK IN BENGUET

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“Pigingan” in one of Cordillera’s local dialect means slanted, which describes the shape of the summit. It is not as popular as its neighboring mountains, Mt. Ugo and Mt. Ulap but it is really worth to give this a mountain a shot especially its main highlight, its beautiful sunrise. The hike to the summit may take 3-5 hours depending on your speed. The trail is friendly even for beginners in hiking since it is paved and sculpted. However the biggest struggle is the hot afternoon sun especially if you start the hike at midday. Pigingan is located in Barangay Dalupirip in Itogon, Benguet near Pangasinan so the temperature is warmer than other mountains of Benguet (we went there in the month of May). Plus the fact that the pathway doesn’t have much trees to shade the trail that slows down the hike. Day hike and overnight hike are both possible however the schedule of jeepneys going to the Sitio Balococ, the jump off is a big conflict so having a private vehicle is strongly recommended. I never heard of Mt. Pigingan before until my friends from Team Ladaw, a travel group on facebook introduced me to this mountain. They invited me to join their first Hike for a Cause event to raise funds for their upcoming outreach program. Of course, I packed my weekend bag and just go.

HOW TO GET THERE

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Crossing Agno River. Photo credit to Team Ladaw
  1. Jeepney to Dalupirip
  • Jeepneys leaving from Baguio to Dalupirip starts from 10 a.m. – 12nn and vice versa is at 6 a.m. – 7 a.m. However, if the jeepney is full it will leave immediately without following the schedule so to be safe, be at their terminal in front of Shopper’s Lane at 9 a.m. Fare is ₱60 and travel time is 2 hours.
  1. Private Vehicle
  • Strongly recommended since the schedule of jeepneys going and leaving Dalupirip is a conflict to day hikers and overnight ones. To get there take the Loakan Road to Virac, Itogon until you reach the twin river. From there you will see two separate roads, take the left road going to barangay Dalupirip then follow the road going up to Sitio Balococ, the jump off of the hike. Signs are visible so there won’t be much problem driving or getting lost.

WHERE TO STAY

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The campsite. Photo credit to Team Ladaw.

There is no any type of accommodation here so camping will be your only choice unless locals will offer their place for you to crash.

THE JOURNEY

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We departed Baguio City at 9:30 am and reached Sitio Balococ at around 11:45 considering the battle of traffic in Baguio. We had our registration, hiring of guide and porter and lunch. By 1 p.m. we started to walk. The first hour of our hike is a decent path with cemented road, crossing Agno River thru a long suspended bridge and purely straight flat trail. However the struggle here is the hot afternoon sun that makes the hike a bit slower and tiring. The next 2 hours is where the hike starts to be challenging, gradually as we ascend, the trail becomes steeper and the heat becomes stronger. We passed by some shaded part of trail to rest and refill our empty water bottles from their natural spring water sources. There are three water sources along the way before reaching the campsite. The trail in this part of the hike is mostly composed of soil and some loose sand.

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The Junction; almost there! Photo credit to Team Ladaw

When we reach the junction we saw a signage of different trails to take. It also has a store that sells snacks and cold drinks. Starting this point was another one and half hour tougher and steeper trail to the campsite. Some parts of the trail are composed of loose soil but mostly are sturdy decent path. And again not much trees to protect us from the harsh sun but the views are more stunning with surrounding mountains.

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We reached the campsite at around 5:30 pm so that was a 4 ½ hour of hiking with a normal pace and a lot of rest (LOL). Maybe if it wouldn’t have been because of the heat we could have reached the campsite earlier. Anyway 5 minutes from the campsite are the water source and toilet.

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The stunning sunrise of Mt. Pigingan.

From the campsite is another 30 minutes trail to the peak of Mt. Pigingan. The trail going to the summit is easy but the peak is quite difficult since it was too steep. The highlights of this mountain are its generous sunrise and picturesque mountains surrounding it. On the right side you will find the sunrise while on the left are smaller but high definition resolution (HDR) mountains view.

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The team, thank you Team Ladaw. Photo credit to Team Ladaw.

ITINERARY (by TEAM LADAW)

Overnight

Day 1

8 am: Assembly (Slaughter, Magsaysay, BC)

9 am: Departure to Balococ

12nn: Arrival to Balococ (Lunch, Registration, Prepare to trek)

1 pm: Start trek

5 pm: Arrival at campsite (Tent set up, dinner, socials)

9 pm: Lights Off

 

Day 2:

3 am: Wake up call (Coffee)

4 am: Start trek to the summit

8 am: Back to the campsite (breakfast, pack up)

10am: Start to descend

1 pm: Arrival to Balococ (Lunch, Shower, Prepare to go home)

4 pm: Arrival in Baguio City

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Hiking the summit at dawn.

EXPENSES

Registration Fee: ₱100/ person

Guide: ₱ 500/ day max of 7 people

Porter: ₱ 500/ 15 kg (₱50/ 1 kg excess)

Shower Fee:  ₱25

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The view on the other side of Mt. Pigingan.

For more inquiries contact their barangay captain, Mr. Joel Bauson at 0947 521 2627 or person in charge Ms. Lanie Pastor at 0998 233 7994.

For guiding service contact Raven Pili (totally recommended) at 0950 145 8485

  • Note: Signal is a big problem in Sitio Balococ so it may take a while before they could respond to your messages and calls.

For more hiking events visit Team Ladaw’s Facebook page.

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First rest; it’s been a long walk.
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The view halfway from the junction to the campsite.

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Another view from another side. Photo credit to Team Ladaw.

BALI, INDONESIA: A DREAM COME TRUE

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Many things influenced me to dream of traveling Bali. Aside from its reputation as honeymoon place or #TravelGoal #RelationshipGoal destination, it is also tagged to be the last paradise on earth. I won’t disagree with that! The island has complete list of things to do from the peaceful and relaxing natures and waterfalls of Ubud to the noisy nightlife and beach of Kuta .

My first sight of Bali was back in 2004 when I was still in first year high school through a Korean drama entitled “Memories of Bali”. The fact that I was in love with the story and characters of it, it also convinced me to visit Bali one day. Starting that day I made it a goal to travel Bali someday when I grow older. That burning desire grew stronger when I was in university, I came across with a newspaper article entitled “Bali, The Last Paradise on Earth”. It talks about the beautiful sceneries, cultures and clear blue ocean of Bali. So I said to myself I really must go to Bali. After a few years I was already working when I watched Julia Roberts movie “Eat, Pray, Love” where it featured Ketut: the Medicine Man in Bali who predicts Julia’s future saying she will lose everything but she will gain it back and she’ll return to Bali and he will teach her everything he knows. It also shows the beautiful town of Ubud where Ketut is living and some of a must visit islands. She ended up being in love again, settling in Bali and raising some funds to help the people of Bali. Finally, the year 2017 after 13 years when a friend and I decided to backpack for a month in Southeast Asia and included Bali in the list of countries we’ll be visiting. My dream came true!

Disclaimer: Bali is one of my dream places. Yes! But not all the things I’m going to mention here will be positive or in favor of Bali! There are fair share of good and bad experiences I had during this trip and I am completely honest in writing about them. This blog is not to bring negativity but to give you an idea of what to expect. In my opinion Bali is still a must-see place.

HOW TO GET TO BALI

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Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines fly directly to Bali from Manila at approximately 4-5 hours. A round trip ticket cost from ₱8,000- ₱20,000 depending on the season. Airasia also flies to Bali with a layover in Kuala Lumpur at an estimated cost of ₱7,000- ₱12,000. In our case we flew from Bangkok, Thailand to Bali, Indonesia via Airasia for 4 ½ hours that cost us ₱ 6,150 each with no check in baggage.

GETTING AROUND BALI

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Bali has no fix and systematic mode of public transportation which I think is the number 1 drawback of this place. The most common mode of transportation here is either taxis and private cars (which are overprice) or renting a motorbike to go around. I read some about Kura-Kura van that goes from Kuta to Ubud however we haven’t experienced it when we were there. So we usually walk from one site to another or use Grab and Uber. However, most of tourist sites in Bali ban these taxi apps from picking up passengers due to strikes from drivers saying they’re losing their jobs so a good haggling skill is necessary to avoid being ripped off. There are also circumstances that the Grab driver will ask you to pay 3x more than what is in the app rate. My tip, book a driver that has 5 stars rate only.

WHERE TO STAY

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Originally we plan to stay for the whole time in Ubud and just do day trips in Kuta however seeing the transportation problem in Bali then it won’t be smart for us to do so. For 6 days in Bali we decided to stay in two places, Ubud and Kuta so we’ll not be very far from our day trips in each area. There are various accommodations to choose from in Bali from private villas to hotels, homestays and guesthouses. We booked our first place in Ubud in Made Arsa Homestay (totally recommended). It is 1 kilometer away from the center of Ubud but I am very satisfied with this place. I observed that unlike in other cities in Southeast Asia where it is more convenient to stay in the center, Ubud has the opposite approach. In Ubud center the restaurants and stores are more costly than in our area. Although 1 kilometer away from the center there are many cheap local eateries and food stall around here. Luckily our homestay also provides free breakfast and transportation to the center although that is not necessary for us since we are used to walking.

In Kuta we stayed in Legian Road near the beach. It is very convenient place, near stores and restaurants, pubs and clubs and all the wild night life.

PLACES TO VISIT

UBUD

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Ubud is more of countryside, nature tripping mood. The town is known as a center for traditional crafts and dance. The surrounding Ubud District’s rainforest and terraced rice paddies, dotted with Hindu temples and shrines, are among Bali’s most famous landscapes.

UBUD MONKEY FOREST

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Ubud Monkey Forest, also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, is one of Ubud’s most popular attractions; a natural forest sanctuary that is home to a horde of grey long-tailed macaques. The village’s residents view the Monkey Forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation center for the village. You can watch or see the monkeys and be entertained as they play or remove lice from each other. You can also feed them with bananas that can be bought in the forest or if they are curious enough they might jump into your shoulders or head and hang in there for a while. One funny thing I experienced when a monkey jumped into us for some cuddling or food the staff guarding the place would immediately shoo the monkey away but if you pay some cash they would invite the monkey to stand on your head or your shoulders so you can take pictures with them. However be warned that these monkeys are curious of everything so it is advised to watch out for your belongings and don’t bring food and tissue because chances are they might snatch those things from you. This place doesn’t only let you hang around with monkeys but also will give you a bit of a hike since it is a large forest type of place.

Entrance Fee: IDR 50,000 (₱188)

Banana:           IDR 50,000/ bundle (₱188)

 

CAMPUHANGAN RIDGEWALK

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A free and easy nature trek, popular among Ubud visitors. The area provides a great retreat and escape from the contemporary boutique, guesthouse and restaurant-lined in Ubud. The hike doesn’t only let you enjoy cool fresh air and see gorgeous hillside vista in the region, it also allows you to shed off some calories with its nine-kilometer hill track. The place is not difficult to reach since it is present in google maps and signages are present as you do your trail. At the end of the trail you will see rice paddies, some hostels and cafes that are present there.

Entrance Fee: Free

TEGENUNGAN WATERFALLS

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Hmmm.. What can I say, when we searched google for waterfalls this is the number one recommended place to us. The closest natural attraction that you can reach within half-hour transfer southeast from Ubud town. Getting to the falls is a pleasant drive down paved village roads lined with stretches of green rice fields on both sides. There are hot springs where you can take a dip if you want to be away from the crowd or a little side trip after taking photos on the waterfalls.

Entrance Fee: IDR 15,000 (₱56)

Additional IDR 10,000 (₱38) if you go on top of the waterfalls.

 

TIBUMANA WATERFALLS

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A bit of an underrated waterfalls in Bali but a bit of a so so too, maybe because when we were there, there’s not much water and I’m kinda disappointed with the trash gathered in the hole at the back of the waterfalls. It is not that popular so don’t expect much crowd in the place which is good however because of that reason also there are no taxis standing by when you leave. So travellers usually either have their own drivers waiting for them or they have their own motorbikes. There’s also no restaurant around the area but there’s a store selling snacks and drinks only.

Entrance Fee: IDR 10,000 (₱38)

GOA GAJAH (ELEPHANT CAVE)

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We discovered this place by accident when we were desperately looking for a taxi going home from Tibumana waterfalls. This is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. Located on the cool western edge of Bedulu Village, six kilometres out of central Ubud. You do not need more than an hour to descend to its relic-filled courtyard and view the rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools and fountains.You are required to wear a sarong upon entering and you can also hire a guide as you go around but not necessary.

 

*note: Female visitors who are on their period are NOT ALLOWED to enter the temple.

Entrance Fee: IDR 15,000 (₱56)

 

UBUD WATER PALACE

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Located in Jalan Ubud Raya, very near the market and next door to the Lotus Café can be reached on foot if you are staying in Ubud center. In the daytime, it is nice, with large lotus ponds reflecting the gorgeous Balinese architecture of the Palace facade. The palace is closed to public so you will just settle outside for pictures.

Entrance Fee: Free

 

TEGALALANG RICE TERRACES

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Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies that spread down before you and away to the rice paddies on the slopes across the valley. The high roadside location is cool and breezy however when you reach there on a sunny midday until 4 pm, prepare to be burned as the hot Indonesian sun is no joke. It is a well-known spot for tourists to stop and take photos but be aware of some locals offering to take pictures with them then suddenly would demand to pay them for it. Painters and nature lovers also enjoy visiting this spot, and there are numerous art kiosks and cafes near the ledge offering their ware. Although the entrance fee is by donation some locals around the terraces would demand you to pay them IDR 10,000 (₱38) for you to pass by since they are claiming that they own the piece of pathway way you are passing by. Some would even block the way and won’t let you pass which I find very aggressive. Anyway it is still a must see place just go there prepared.

Entrance Fee: Donation (Most visitors pay IDR 10,000 but for us we gave IDR 2,000)

 

KUTA

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An exact opposite of Ubud. Ubud is peaceful and quiet while Kuta is wild and energetic place since it is a beach and resort area in the south island of Bali, Indonesia. One of Bali’s first tourist developments where the modern era of tourism in Bali began. It’s best known for its party-centric atmosphere with wild nightlife and high concentration of bars, nightclubs, and hotels. Kuta’s Indian Ocean long sandy beach with consistent waves make it a popular surf spot, particularly for beginners, with plenty of outfitters offering board rentals and surf lessons. It is popular with younger travelers and those on a budget. There are plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from. Traffic is really mad sometimes and it can get really busy, but it is still a great place to meet people and have fun.

 

KUTA BEACH

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It’s considered Bali’s most famous beach resort destination. Once a simple, rustic and quiet fishing village, Kuta Beach has witnessed a transformation over the past years. This is due to the rise of various accommodation options, dining and shopping scenes. The rapid growth owes much to visitors, beachcombers and art lovers from nearby Australia. Expatriates also helped pioneer surfing in Kuta, as well. Don’t expect a white sand beach here or crystal clear blue sky water but be amazed with its waves that have great reputation in surfing for beginners or professional that is hyped by surfers from all over the world. Although its waves are not that high it is still perfect for beginners. Alleys of bars and cafes are lined to view the beach while relaxing on their comfortable seats or cushions with beer and live music or just simply spread your sarong and lie on the beach to get a tan.

 

SEMINYAK BEACH

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Not far from Kuta beach you will find Seminyak beach a few east feet away. The waves in this beach are way bigger than in Kuta perfect for professional surfers. The alley of bars and cafes along the beach of Kuta is stretched until Seminyak. This area is also a home to high end and luxurious beach resorts, restaurants and boutiques with a more secluded ambiance. I must say there’s no big difference between the two beaches since they’re just next to each other except their waves.

 

ULUWATU TEMPLE

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One of the comment from tripadvisor said “A so so temple located in a perfect cliff with a perfects sunset.” I kinda agree to that. First the temple is close so I can’t access and comment about it. However the location is just so perfect for sunset and ocean viewing. The high blue noisy waves of the Indian Ocean is so addicting to watch plus the fact that it has a clear blue water. Most visitors visit the temple at around late afternoon to view the sunset and for the Kecak Dance performance, a Balinese traditional fire dance that happens at 6:00 pm. Be advise to wear modest clothes in going to the temple. Sarongs and belts are provided in the entrance after you get your ticket. Be vigilant on your belongings because the monkeys here are smart or hungry enough to snatch your things away from you. When we were there several cases of snatching happened from cellphones, earrings, sunglasses, hats, cameras and water bottles. As much as possible avoid wearing accessories or just simply avoid the monkeys. Although staffs are there to help you, prevention of this situation is way better than solving it.

 

Entrance Fee: Adult: IDR 30,000 (₱112)                   Children: IDR 20,000 (₱75)

Kecak Dance: IDR 100,000 (₱375)

Private Car: IDR 300,000 (₱1,125)

  • Note: We rented a private car and a driver we met on the street. His first price for a round trip to Uluwatu temple is IDR 500,000 (₱1,870) but we haggled until it went down to our agreed price.
  • Agencies offering tours or private cars going to this temple are around Legian area. Their prices varies from IDR 350,000 (₱1,310)- IDR 750,000 (₱2,800) others include Tanah Lot Temple.

BAKUN TRIO: THE THREE GEMS OF BAKUN, BENGUET PHILIPPINES

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Bakun is one of the thirteen municipalities of Benguet, Philippines, a mountainous and peaceful province in the north. I honestly can’t imagine how peaceful and clean this place is away from the noise and other pollution in the city. Bakun can be your perfect serene place for soul searching, reflection or simply a relaxation. Let me start when the tourism officer told us that the whole municipality has a cigarette and liquor ban. At first we thought it was because of the Holy Week holiday however she made it clear to us that it is a municipal ordinance and it is strictly implemented. Therefore don’t expect anyone loitering the streets at night being drunk and causing trouble. Next, you will be amazed how clean this place is not only from the fresh air you get but also from their waste management system. They have an organized waste segregation that is followed by the residents and should be complied by the visitors. Another fact, I haven’t seen any stray dogs that wander around the streets. Dog owners are responsible enough to tie their dogs. Lastly, the place shuts down at 8 p.m. Literally, you can’t do anything here after 8 p.m as all stores, markets and eateries close in the center. Since there’s liquor ban don’t be stupid enough to wander around looking for bars. I can say staying here detoxes and cleanses our body and mind from the harsh substances and stress we have in the city.

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Bakun Trio is composed of three mountains, Mt. Lubo, Mt. Kabunian and Mt. Tenglawan. They are near to each other so it makes it easy to climb the 3 mountains one at a time in just 3 days. Although most hikers usually take day hikes to each mountain and sleep in the municipal hall in Poblacion at night, others camp in the mountain to witness the sunrise or take traverse route from Sinacbat- Mt. Tenglawan- Mt. Kabunian- Poblacion. In our case we started to hike Mt. Lubo from Sitio Dada then traverse route to Poblacion. I must say that these mountains are major climbs you need to be physically fit and mentally ready for the hike. Expect a steep, narrow with loose soil path even cliff going to the summit. I must say Mt. Kanubian and Mt. Tenglawan are for professional hikers or mountaineers. Bakun Trio is still a rising star when it comes to popularity as compared to Mt. Pulag in Kabayan, and Mt. Ulap and Mt. Ugo in Itogon. There are not many travel and tour groups that organize event in this place. However I am lucky enough to cross path with Team Ladaw, a travel group in facebook founded by young travel enthusiasts. They invite people to join them on their journey as they hike mountains, dip in waterfalls and swim on beaches. For more inquiries visit their facebook page on this link.

HOW TO GET TO BAKUN

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The Team! Photo Credit to Mr. Abel Sanyver
  1. By bus
  • Daily bus trip to Bakun comes from Caltex Gas Station Km. 5 La Trinidad, Benguet from 6;30 am-7:00 am via Bakun Cooperative Bus. It will take you to barangay Poblacion, the center of Bakun.
  • Bus fare: Php 180
  • Estimated travel time: 6 hours
  1. Private car or rented jeepney or van
  • For big groups I suggest to take rented van or jeepney or might as well your own car. It is more convenient and saves time.
  • Rented jeepney from Bakun that will pick you up in Baguio costs Php 12,000 round trip. (For inquiries contact this number 0912 807 0974)

WHERE TO STAY

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Overnight Camping at Mt. Kabunian

There are no other accommodations in Bakun except the municipal hall in Poblacion or barangay hall in Sinacbat. Usually hikers go on a day hike and sleep in the municipal hall at night. Others camp in the mountain and leave their other stuff there, just like what we did.

Accommodation Rate: Php 200/ person (with gas stove and blanket)

Php 80/ person (without gas stove and blanket)

Baggage Fee:               Php 50/ person (for overnight hike)

 

For more inquiries contact their Tourism Officer Ms. Nenita 0918 352 3722

 

BAKUN TRIO JOURNEY

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Photo credit to Mr. Abel Sanyver

We left Baguio City at 1 a.m took the Halsema Highway passing through La Trinidad, Atok and  Buguias  route. The travel took 5 hours with the rough, bumpy, curvy and foggy road. I must warn you, the ride won’t be easy. We arrived in Sitio Dada, Bakun before 6 a.m. ate breakfast and start to hike at around 8 a.m.

 

  1. MT. LUBO

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As an amateur hiker this is the easiest mountain to hike among the three. We started to ascend from Sitio Dada with a decent pathway. However when we went down the traverse route that will take us to Poblacion, it was very steep with slippery loose soil and dried leaves that fell down from forest trees. I admit I slipped a hundred times so a good hiking shoes and trail stick are recommended. The hike to the summit took us 1 hour 30 minutes while the descending hike took us 2 hours.

 

Registration and Environmental Fee: Php 100

Guide Fee:

  • Traverse: Php 800/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Back Trail: Php 600/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)

2. MT. KABUNIAN

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In one of native Cordilleran dialect Kabunian means God. This mountain is believed to be where their God is staying. I actually agree with it since judging how difficult the path is. It gives an impression that Kabunian doesn’t want to be bothered so he stays in a very difficult to reach place. I would describe this as the most “buwis buhay” (near death) and difficult path I ever took among all of my hiking experience so far. Aside from the steep or assault loose soil path, what makes my knees shake are the cliffs. One mistake and you are done. For those who are scared of heights like me better bag lots of courage with you. I’m telling you it won’t be easy. I admit I almost cried in the middle of the hike since it is already dark and we haven’t reached the camp site yet and seeing how far we need to hike more and the number of cliff and assault we need to pass through. The hike to the campsite is approximately 3 ½ hours, then from the campsite to the summit is 10-15 minutes and the descending hike took around 3 hours.

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The steep path to Mt. Kabunian! Photo credit to Team Ladaw

Registration Fee and Environmental Fee: Php 100

Guide Fee:

  • Day Hike: Php 1000/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Overnight: Php 1,300/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Note: additional of 100 Php 100/ hour after 12 noon the next day for overnight hike
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The narrowest trail I ever had! Photo credit to Team Ladaw3

3. MT. TENGLAWANDSC04960-01

If Mt. Lubo is the easiest, Mt. Kabunian is the most difficult then Mt. Tenglawan is the longest hike. Approximately 7 hours hike one way, with ascending and descending path. Gladly unlike Mt. Kabunian it doesn’t have cliff however most of the hike will be a battle between assault loose gravel and soil. Most day hikers start the trail as early as 4 am to get to the summit at 10 am or 11 am. As for my team we start to hike at 2:30 pm and arrived at the camping site at 9:30 p.m. It was very creepy to hike in a steep forest in the dark. The campsite has an improvised toilet for your call of nature. From the campsite it takes 30 minutes hike to the summit. The summit is beautiful at sunrise, mostly composed of mountain views however if you are looking for sea of clouds don’t expect it from here.

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6:30 am sunrise of Mt. Tenglawan!

Registration and Environmental Fee: Php 100

Guide Fee:

  • Day hike: Php 1,300 / 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Overnight: Php 1,500/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Overtime fee after 12 noon the next day for overnight hike additional Php100/ hour/ guide

For more inquiries contact their Tourism Officer Ms. Nenita at 0918 352 3722

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This post is made possible by Team Ladaw, shout out to the amazing team for organizing this event. For more inquiries about their upcoming events visit their facebook page on the link below or contact them at 0919 311 3226 and 0956 657 5887

https://www.facebook.com/teamladaw/

 

LAOS, FROM NORTH TO SOUTH: LAOS 101 BACKPACKING GUIDE

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Whenever people ask me what my favorite country is, I always tell them it is Laos. There are many reasons to love this country. Aside from their temples and majestic waterfalls I am also fallen to the country’s food, safety, people, chill atmosphere and slow pace of life which is what Laos is known for. Laos PDR, “Please Don’t Rush” as called by visiting travellers. One thing that attracts me the most in this country are the people. From my personal experience I never experienced any rip off here. Yeah! They might charge a little bit more for the tuktuk fee but take note that tuktuk fare is always negotiable and consider that the country’s diesel is imported from Vietnam and Thailand. Most of their products are imported that is why basic commodities here are more expensive than the neighboring countries. People here are very friendly and welcoming to visitors. I never experienced being mocked and catcalled even when I’m traveling with a white guy as compared to how I battle with people’s stares and curses in other countries. Although English is not widely spoken Laotians are helpful when it comes to directions. They will direct and guide you to your destination and will even give you a free ride.

Laos is a landlocked country and can be traveled by land. You can start your journey from south to north and make your way to Thailand or Vietnam or the other way around and end up in Cambodia. I have been to Laos twice and I must say given a chance I will keep on coming back here. In this blog I will be stating my experiences and observations in different regions, their cost of living, places to go and things to do. Let’s start with my most favorite city in the north, Luang Prabang.

LUANG PRABANG

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The former capital of Laos is home to stunning Kuang Si Waterfalls. I grew my curiosity and desire to visit this place when I saw the pictures online. I was totally in love with this place the moment I set foot on it. From the sunset of Mt. Phousi, dinner by the Mekong River to the enchanted Kuang Si Waterfalls. What more can you ask for? One famous thing to do here aside from visiting Kuang Si waterfalls is the half day elephant bathing and riding activities and village tours offered by tour agencies. Since this place is very famous a lot of tourists and travelers flock here but the number of accommodations is not sufficient to the number of visitors especially in the peak season of Lunar or Chinese New Year. It will be very touristy and your accommodation reservation can be canceled without your knowledge. Your guesthouse or hostel hosts will not feel accountable to it saying Chinese visitors already rent out the whole place and paid 10 times more than the real price. Believe me, I experienced that and ended up walking on the streets on a hot sunny afternoon along with other backpackers from one hostel to another checking if they have vacant bed. I enjoyed that experienced though because I found a $5 shared dorm room which is cheaper than my original hostel.

Disclaimer: I am not a hater of Chinese. Take note that not all travels will go as smooth as planned. This experienced didn’t turn me off as well since I found my favorite waterfalls in the world, Kuang Si Waterfalls.

From here you can ride a 22-hour sleeper’s bus to Hanoi or overnight bus to Northern parts of Vietnam or Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Average Meal Cost: ₭15,000- ₭ 35,000 (₱ 95- ₱ 220)

Tuktuk Fee: ₭30,000- ₭150,000 (₱190- ₱ 950)

Accomodation (Shared Dormitory): ₭40,000- ₭250,000 (₱250- ₱1,600)

Day Tour Activities (no free lunch): ₭50,000- ₭250,000 (₱350- ₱1,600)

 

VANG VIENG

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I would describe this as the party place of Laos. You can never run out of activities here. From tubing, kayaking, dipping in blue lagoon, zipline, rock climbing, hot air balloon during sunrise or sunset to happy hour parties with free unlimited whiskies. This village 5 hours bus ride south from Luang Prabang is a must visit or stop for travelers backpacking Laos. I suggest you to book your accommodation in Vang Vieng Main Road because it is accessible to banks, stores, restaurants and bars. If you are looking for a night life on a budget head to Sakura Bar at 9-10 pm and Viva Pub at 11 pm for unlimited free drinks and whisky.

Average Meal Cost: ₭10,000- ₭ 25,000 (₱65- ₱160)

Tuktuk Fee: ₭10,000- ₭70,000 (₱65-₱ 450)

Accomodation (Shared Dormitory): ₭50,000- ₭70,000 (₱350- ₱450)

Day Tour Activities (with free lunch): ₭50,000- ₭200,000 (₱350- ₱1,250)

 

Vientiane

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Three-hour bus ride from Vang Vieng is the capital city of Laos. Vientiane is a chill city with no rush and no traffic. However this city may seem boring since there are not much things to do and places to visit. The main attractions here are limited to Wat Si Saket, Patuxai Monument, That Luang, Lao National Museum and Buddha Park which you can visit for a day or two. During the night you can stroll at the Mekong Riverside Park. It has beautiful sunset, various restaurants, bars and night market. The best way to stroll around the city is to rent a bike since there are no day tour activities here except Buddha Park.

You have plenty of options to go from here. You can take 20-hour overnight bus to Hanoi or Danang, Vietnam, train and buses to Cambodia or Thailand.

Average Meal Cost: ₭10,000- ₭ 30,000 (₱65- ₱160)

Tuktuk Fee: ₭30,000- ₭100,000 (₱190- ₱650)

Accomodation (Shared Dormitory): ₭50,000- 80,000 (₱350- ₱500)

Day Tour Activities (temple entrance fees): ₭5,000- ₭30,000 (₱32- ₱190)

 

PAKSE

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This is indeed the cheapest city in the country. I heard about this place from my roommate in Vientiane who at that time was planning to stay here for 2 weeks. From what she said, I got curious about this place so I decided to also take a leap and visit it. I was a little disappointed because there’s nothing special or any attraction within the city except for two temples, Wat Luang and Wat Phabad and Tang Feres riverside market at night. However, it is a good location if you are planning to go on a day trip in Bolaven Plateau where Tad Fane, the 120 meter twin waterfalls is located and Vat Phou, a Khmer Hindu ruin in the South of Laos. From this city you can take an overnight bus to Bangkok, Thailand or go down south to Si Phan Don also known as 4,000 Island.

Average Meal Cost: ₭8,000- ₭ 20,000 (₱63- ₱130)

Tuktuk Fee: ₭10,000- ₭20,000 (₱65- ₱130)

Accomodation (Shared Dormitory): ₭40,000- 60,000 (₱250- ₱375)

Day Tour Activities (waterfalls entrance fee): ₭5,000- ₭10,000 (₱32- ₱65)

 

Si Phan Don (4,000 Island)

 

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My friend and I have a big debate about the worth of this island. For Asian travelers you might not find this place interesting since it has just farm and rivers which we can find at our own backyard at home (I was born and raised in a countryside so I can say it is the same like my place at home) but for Westerns they are amazed with the chill, slow pace atmosphere and countryside vibe of it. This island became popular when the local government of Vang Vieng closed the irresponsible bars and parties along the river that made the river polluted. So, gradually it started to open bars and transferred the party vibe of Vang Vieng here. However, I must warn you with partying because there are instances that the whole island losses its electricity and have complete blackout. It’s very creepy to walk at night from the bar to your bungalow in complete darkness. Attractions here includes Li Phi Waterfalls, tubing and Irrawaddy Dolphin watching offered by tour agencies but the main highlight of this place is lying in a hammock outside your bungalow watching the sunrise or sunset It is the most expensive place especially with food, double the cost of Luang Prabang and Vientiane. There are not many tuktuk in the islands so visitors usually go around the islands with rented bicycle or motorbikes.

From here you can take a boat and 8-hour bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia or overnight bus to Bangkok, Thailand.

Average Meal Cost: ₭20,000- ₭ 45,000 (₱130- ₱285)

Bicycle Rental: ₭10,000 (₱65)

Motorcycle Rental: ₭50,000 (₱350)

Accommodation (Private Bungalow): ₭50,000- ₭ 150,000 (₱350- ₱950)

Day Tour Activities (waterfalls entrance fee): ₭35,000 (₱220)

Tubing and Irrawaddy Dolphin Watching: ₭150,000 (₱950)

PLACES TO VISIT IN PHNOM PENN AND SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

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Cambodia is home to majestic and stunning temples of the world. Travelers and backpackers doing Indochina trip do not just pass by this country but they surely include it in their itinerary. Who would want to miss one of the best temples of the world made popular by Angelina Jolie’s movie, Tomb Raider. Although the country had been in dark years due to the abuse and inhumane actions done by their previous leader, Khmers are thriving to move forward from the past building a brighter future. Now, people flock here not just to do volunteer work but also to see the places this country can offer.

PHNOM PENH

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The capital city of Cambodia, a small city with 1.6 million people. A lot of expatriates live here doing volunteer work filling the gap and helping the country progress. When we were here it was a week-long holiday that’s why it looks and feels like a ghost town. Most business establishments are closed and food prices are a bit inflated with a $3 (PHP 150) sandwich in a convenient store. Tuktuk (motor taxi) is their main public transportation. Although there are city buses around, I heard they are not commonly used. During the rainy months of June to December expect that some roads are flooded and can’t be accessed on foot. On our first night we were also greeted with floods, so we can’t walk searching for a place to eat but that’s fine we were able to walk on the following places as they are next to each other.

PLACES TO VISIT

INDEPENDENCE MONUMENT

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One of the famous landmark in Phnom Penh built in 1958 with a mix of modern and ancient Cambodian architecture. It is gigantic and sits in the middle of the main road and now serves as a place for official activities in the country

NORODOM SIHANOUK STATUE

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Few steps from the Independence Monument you can find King Father Norodom Sihanuok Statue. King Norodom Sihanuok is the king of Cambodia from 1941-1955 and 1993 to 2004. He is a legendary hero for Cambodians because of his campaign against French occupation.

ROYAL PALACE

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Not far from the Norodom Sihanouk Statue you will find the complex of buildings that serve as the official residence of the King. Strict dress code is implemented here as a sign of respect for the sacredness of the place.

Entrance Fee: $6

WAT OUNALOM

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One of Phnom Penh’s five original monasteries, it serves as headquarter of Cambodia’s head Buddhist brotherhood. When we were roaming around the area a monk called us and open one of the temple which serve as a prayer room. He told us to say our wish to Buddha then he whisk water on us while chanting “Goodluck! Goodluck!”.

WAT PHNOM

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The central point of the city and its namesake. The temple located on a hill in the heart of the city is believed to be protected by Buddha’s holiness and is remarkable for its historical importance.

Entrance Fee: $ 1

SIEM REAP

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Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the city of the world famous temple, Angkor Wat! There’s nothing much to do in this place aside from the night life in Pub Street and Angkor Wat tour, however I find this city more interesting and way cheaper than Phnom Penh. One dollar goodies are everywhere such as snacks, pancake, and exotic food. One of the most interesting thing I did, is ate baby spider in Pub Street. It was tasty but I have to warn you because after 30 minutes my allergy starts to build up and my whole face became reddish and itchy. Aside from those here are some other places to visit in Siem Reap.

PLACES TO VISIT

PUB STREET

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It’s the heart of Siem Reap. Just like other walking streets in Southeast Asia, it has lively nightlife composed of bars, clubs, restaurants, street food and entertainment. Draft beers are everywhere for $0.50 (PHP 25). It is close to souvenir markets and food stalls, so everything you are looking for is here.

KING’S ROAD MADE IN CAMBODIA MARKET

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It is absolutely worth your time. This is in stark contrast to every other market in town, where the majority of the wares sold are generic made in China, Vietnam or Thailand. Everything sold here are definitely made in Cambodia. From food, art, clothing, homewares, cosmetics, toys, jewelry and more, this is one best way to market and support the authentic product of the country.

WAT PREAH PROM RATH

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The modern temple grounds give few hints as to its 500 year history. Though the lotus-themed architecture seems to emulate temples from over the border, the front gate integrates bayon-style heads and a scene in relief of the Buddha seated under a tree. We accidentally discovered this place on our way to the Royal Garden. We were hesitant to enter but a friendly monk approached us and took the time to talk with us. We had a short chat about his life as a monk until we waved goodbye.

ROYAL GARDEN

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A 15-minute stroll north from the Old Market, along the shady west bank of the Siem Reap River, you will find a restful area from the dusty streets of downtown. A good place to hang out if you ran out of place to visit in Siem Reap. On the Southern part of the garden lies the royal residence building which is not open to public. Local sellers start to approach tourists to sell their products which are way cheaper than local markets.

ANGKOR WAT TOUR

The grandest temple I ever saw in my life. I do have a feeling that this is not just a temple but a residence or an empire to previous Khmer King. I am amazed on how the building is constructed and built. It made me time traveled from the past and curious about how Khmers live thousand years ago.

We took a day-pass tour in which we explored 3 main temples Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. We hired a tuktuk driver for a day through our hotel in Siem Reap. Although tour agencies offer a day tour in Angkor Wat with hotel pick up and English Speaking guide for $20-35 per pax. I find it more convenient and cheaper to do the former. We started at 8 am from our hotel then first drove to Srah Srang.

SRAH SRANG

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It is a chapel as they say to Kama, God of Love. It has a lake and surrounded with trees and a perfect spot to witness the sunrise.

Our driver asked us to enter the temple across the chapel and meet him from the opposite side. Then he drove us to our next destination.

TA PROHM

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This temple is one of the most marketed by tour agencies. They call it Tomb Raider temple since this is where Tomb Raider movie was filmed. Undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin, a very mesmerizing place with grown trees around the temple walls. Visitor can’t help to wonder how old these gigantic trees are.

ANGKOR THOM

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Another impressive place worth the time to explore. While we were entering the huge gate I was wondering, is this a city, an empire or a royal residence? Later I have known that this was the last capital of Khmer Empire. A city where priest, officials of the palace and military lives. There are numerous royal residences enclosed in its huge gates however most of them are under construction when we were there and are closed for safety purposes. Still, I am amazed on how the buildings are beautifully designed, constructed and how they are situated in the heart of the forest.

ANGKOR WAT

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Angkor Wat is the largest monument of the Angkor group and the best preserved. It is an architectural masterpiece. Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, relief’s and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world.

Before we enter our last destination for this tour, our driver told us that most of his clients told him that it is the best temple they saw in their entire life. We kinda raise our expectation upon crossing the lake in front of the temple entering  the west gate because of what he said. It is too huge that my knees gave up from all the walking and climbing up the stairs to reach the top. As to what our driver said before, I think it all boils down to preference. While my travel partner is so much impressed with Angkor Wat, I am totally hooked with Angkor Thom.

Entrance fee: $37 (1 day pass)

Tuktuk fee: $13

 

 

TRAVELING HO CHI MINH CITY FOR BEGINNERS UNDER PHP 4,500 BUDGET

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I remember during my first travel in my life. It was a solo and overseas travel in Bangkok, Thailand. I did a lot of impractical mistakes in traveling. I was alone, amateur and scared so I booked my hotel near the airport which is far from the city center and visitor’s sites. I used overpriced taxis. I didn’t invest in mobile data and rely on people for directions which end up unsuccessful since English is not that widely spoken in Southeast Asia. I didn’t do much of research that resulted to disappointment because I thought that this travel was unproductive. I didn’t see a lot of tourist’s sites and I didn’t learn much about their culture. As time passes I learned more practical ways to enjoy traveling without breaking the bank and would engage me more to the culture of the place I am traveling. Traveling for three years now and lived overseas for six months I learned that there are places that are meant for beginners and places for experienced travellers. Countries which English is widely spoken and have organized mode of transportation can be very convenient to travel however, these countries can also be more expensive to travel. So, when my friend and I did our backpacking in Southeast Asia and we started in Ho Chi Minh, I noticed that this city can also be good option for first time travelers.

Ho Chi Minh city formerly known as Saigon is a city in the south of Vietnam named after their late Prime Minister and National Hero, Gen. Ho Chi Minh. This bustling city doesn’t only offer sky scrapers that lights up the city at night but it is also rich in historical and cultural sites and home of flavorful Vietnamese delicacies. During our stay here I noticed how convenient it is to travel Ho Chi Minh. Although English is not widely spoken here, people are helpful when it comes to directions. Bus routes on the GPS are accurate and updated. So if you are a beginner in traveling who wants to have a mix of traditional and modern city and still have the taste of being a traveller then Ho Chi Minh is for you.

Starting in the airport, which is gladly near the city with a well-organized taxi system. You can approach any of the booths offering taxi to your hotel with a fixed price of VND 210, 000 ($10).  If you have Uber or Grab Taxi app, there’s no problem because they are also just around.

WHERE TO STAY?

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I suggest you stay in Bui Vien, District 1 where most of the backpackers stay. It is 30 minutes away from the airport by taxi. One advantage of staying here is it is near the visitor’s sites, has lots of cheap restaurants and street food with lively bars and clubs that makes the walking street alive at night. There  are a lot of affordable budget hotel rooms and dormitory rooms plus tour agencies, money changers are everywhere in this area. We also spotted a cellphone shop here that sells sim card and registers your sim for affordable mobile data plan that only cost VND 110,000 (PHP 220) unlike other stores that sell tourist sim card for VND 200,000- 450,000 (PHP 400- 900).

TIP: Get a Mobifone sim card for VND 40,000 (PHP 80) load for VND 70,000 (PHP 140) and register by typing M70 send it to 999. You get 1.6 GB mobile data plan for 1 month.

PLACES TO VISIT:

We started our travel by doing a historic city tour. From our hostel and equipped with a GPS we walked going to Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, and Independence Palace. We visited them in order since they are next to each other.

NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAIGON

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An iconic landmark of the city located downtown and built by the French colonizers. The orange cathedral is open daily from 5:30 am to 5 pm. However with its undergoing renovation that will last until 2019, visitors are not allowed to enter for safety purposes.

HO CHI MINH CENTRAL POST OFFICE

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Another French built architecture just beside the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is the Central Post Office. Although it is a functioning office with busy workers stamping and sorting loads of mails, we were still able to stroll around the area and get mesmerized with the architecture. On the left and right wings of the entrance there are stores selling souvenir items, postcards and lacquerware.

HO CHI MINH CITY HALL

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Just few feet away from the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, we found ourselves in Ho Chi Minh City Hall. A sunny cream-and-yellow hue European inspired building built in 1902 to 1908. It was formerly known as Hotel de Ville but when the Communist took over before 1975 it was renamed to its present name. This place is gorgeous by day and stunning at night because of the lights surrounding the building. Unfortunately since it is a government office, it is close to public.

INDEPENDENCE PALACE

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Originally the home and command center of Government General. In 1954 the Saigon government took over the place and renamed it to its current name. The palace witnessed series of historical events especially with the political life of their previous presidents. It also undergone massive renovations due to its bombing incident in 1962 and an army tank crashed on its gate in 1975. Now, it is functioning as a museum which features combination of Western and Eastern architecture.

Entrance Fee: VND 30, 000 (PHP 60)

WAR REMNANT MUSEUM

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Before I step in this museum I thought it was just another museum showing the colorful history of Vietnam. However, as I was looking around reading the caption of every picture I came across with, I learned that this place is dedicated to the saddest history of Vietnam, The Vietnam War. Photographs and military equipment are on display in this museum. Documentary videos are played to show what happened during the long bloody war and its result. Outside the museum military tanks, helicopters, aircraft fighters and rocket launchers are well preserved. One thing that I found very heartbreaking is the part of the museum where they showed photos and videos of people especially children who suffered from “Agent Orange”. It is a chemical attack done by the Americans during the war.

Entrance Fee: VND 15,000 (PHP 30)

TURTLE LAKE

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Although there are no live turtles present in this park people call it Turtle Lake because long time ago there was a turtle statue in this man- made lake. However when a group of people bombed this area the turtle statue was destroyed. At night this park lights up with colorful fountain and street food vendors start to pop. I would say this place is popular among locals enjoying the view of the fountain and gorging with street food after their long day at work or school. It is not touristy because when we were there, I only saw two foreigners beside us trying out some street food.

BINH TAY MARKET

Out front at Binh Tay Market in Ho Chi Minh City
Photo credit: synapticism.com

More local food? Head on to District 5 where Binh Tay Market is located. It is in the heart of China Town where you can find cheap goods. However early this year the French architecture building was under repair for its preservation. The stalls are extended outside the building where visitors can still buy souvenirs and taste unique Vietnamese delicacies.

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Trying some Vietnamese coolers.

JADE EMPEROR PAGODA

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The only temple that we visited in this city. To my observation it is a place where most locals visit to say their prayers. There are not much foreigners visiting this temple. There is no entrance fee and their dress code is not that strict here but I suggest you to dress modestly since you are entering a sacred place.

MEKONG RIVER DAY TOUR

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The lifeblood of Southeast Asia passing through six countries, from China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The mud-brown river also played a big role in the history of trading and diverse cultures between these countries.

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Vinh Trang Temple

We booked our day tour via agency near our hotel in District 1. Different agencies may vary in prices from $9-35 per person. We were lucky to get a deal with $11 which includes a day tour with free lunch. The tour starts at 8:30 am hotel pick up then travel for an hour and half going to My Tho, the gateway to Mekong Delta.  We took a glimpse of Vinh Trang Temple then we took a boat going to different villages where we tried their pure honey, ate tropical fruits, paddle boats and ride horses. We also went to this coconut village where we learned the process of extracting coconut oil and how they make different products out of it.

 

EXPENSES: For 4 full day- tour for 1 pax

TRANSPORTATION:

Taxi from airport to hotel: VND 210,000 (Php 440)

Motorbike from Turtle Lake to hotel: VND 50,000 (PHP 100)

Bus from Bui Vien District 1 to Binh Tay Market: VND 5,000 (PHP 10)

Bus from Binh Tay Market to Jade Emperor Pagoda: VND 5,000 (PHP 10)

Bus from Jade Emperor Pagoda to Bui Vien District 1: VND 6,000 (PHP 12)

 

ACCOMMODATION (Giang Hotel): VND 450,000 (PHP 900)

 

FOOD (Vietnamese food sold on the street stalls, eateries and convenient store food): VND 1, 000,000 (PHP 2,000)

 

ENTRANCE FEES:

Independence Palace: VND 30, 000 (PHP 60)

War Remnant Museum: VND 15,000 (PHP 30)

 

MEKONG RIVER DAY TOUR: $11 (PHP 550)

 

TOTAL: PHP 4,112

 

NOTE: plane ticket not included since we returned in the Philippines from Bali, Indonesia but we flew to Ho Chi Minh from Manila via Cebu Pacific for PHP 2599 with no check in baggage.

TRAVELING 5 COUNTRIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA IN 30 DAYS UNDER PHP 50,000

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Southeast Asia is one of the most popular backpacking travel destination. Aside from it is cheap, it is also accessible by land. One popular route backpackers usually take is the Indochina route which includes Vietnam, Cambodia,Laos and Thailand. These countries are next to each other so it can be easily traveled by land. The fact that direct flights from Philippines to Vietnam and Thailand are cheap, it is a very attractive and affordable route for Filipinos who wants to try backpacking for 15-30 days. In our case we followed Indochina route but we also added 1 country, Indonesia.

OUR ROUTE

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We first started our journey flying direct from Manila, Philippines to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam via Cebu Pacific.

HO CHI MINH A.K.A SAIGON, VIETNAM

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Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

This city in the south of Vietnam is home to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, a famous landmark in the city built by French during their occupation in Vietnam. For 5 days in this city, we spent around Php 7,500  for food, transportation and tours for 2 people. A decent fried rice meal, noodle soup or sandwich a.k.a banh my cost VND 20,000- 50,000 (Php 50- 100). City buses are also available around the city for only VND 5,000- 6,000 or Php 10- 12 while motorbike ride (Xie Ohm) may cost VND 30,000- 50,000 (PHP 60-100). Private double room cost VND 300,000 (Php 600) per night but you can also book a dorm room which cost cheaper. One full day city or Mekong River tour with free lunch will cost USD 9- 30 depending on the agency. I suggest that you pay your travel agency in USD since it is accepted and to be safe. There might be instances that the agent will give you a wrong conversion and you will end up paying more than the actual price. Believe me, I experienced that before.

After spending 5 days in Ho Chi Minh city we took a 6-hour bus crossing Moc Bai Border to Phnom Penh, Cambodia through a travel agency near our hotel.

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

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The worst mistake we did in this city is booking our guesthouse far from the city center. Accommodations in Phnom Penh are cheap but be sure to book it in the center or near the sites.  Since city buses here are not really used, we are left with no choice but to hire a tuktuk (motor taxi) which cost USD 5 (PHP 250) each ride but be sure to haggle first as it may go down to USD 3-4. During our stay here, it was a week-long holiday which make it like a ghost town. Most business establishments are closed and the price of food is way too inflated. I remember 2 pieces of grilled fish in a local market cost USD 8 (PHP 400). The convenient stores are also out of stock with food supplies which made our food options very limited. Eating in a local restaurant or street food stall will cost at least USD 3-6 (PHP 150-300) per meal. I don’t know if it is because the long holiday that made this prices too high because for 3 days we spent USD 70.4 (PHP 3,520) for food and transportation alone.

*Note: Khmer Real (KHR) is the currency of Cambodia but USD is widely accepted everywhere.

From Phnom Penh we took another 6- hour bus to Siem Reap.

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

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Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The home of UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat! Gladly this city has lower cost of living than Phnom Penh despite being more touristic and interesting. The average meal cost USD 1.5-3 (PHP 75-150)and street food choices for only USD 1. If you stay near the city center in Pub Street you don’t need to hire a tuk tuk because the markets and restaurants are on foot away. Half day or whole day tours are available through agencies or tuk tuk drivers from USD 13- 35 each depending on the tour.

From Siem Reap we took a bus to cross the border to Laos and boat to reach the island of Don Det.

SI PHAN DON (4000 ISLAND), LAOS

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Don Det, 4000 Island, Laos

I must say this island will get you disconnected to the outside world. There’s nothing much to see in this island. Although activities such as kayaking, tubing and Irrawaddy dolphin watching are available, most travelers stop in this place to enjoy the slow phase of time and lie on the hammock outside their bungalow. Laos is more expensive country than the rest of Southeast Asia, because most of their basic commodities like diesel are imported. Expect that the South of Laos is more costly compared to the rest. The food options are also limited with sandwich, fried rice, fried noodles, soup and Indian food which ranges from LAK 10,000- 50,000 (PHP 60- 300) each meal. However since it is lean season when we were here, so our accommodation which is a bungalow by the river with a perfect sunrise view only cost LAK 50,000 (PHP 300) a night. There are tuk tuks in the island but travelers either usually rent a bicycle for LAK 10,000 (PHP 60) or motorcycle for LAK 80,000 (PHP 490) for a day or walk their way to the sites.

From 4,000 Island we took a boat and a 3-hour bus to Pakse.

PAKSE, LAOS

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Tad Fane Waterfall

This city has also nothing to offer but it is nearby Paksong or Bolaven Plateau which houses the 120 meter high twin waterfall, Tad Fane. Compared to other parts of Laos, Pakse is the cheapest. A decent meal can cost LAK 10,000- 35,000 (PHP 60- 215) with various food option and street food. Tuk tuks cost LAK 10,000- 20,000 (PHP 60- 120) each ride depending on your haggling skill. I would say I experience the warmest and kindest people here. I never felt being ripped off, people smile at you, and would never take advantage of you. One best part of this travel is when a family of 6 offered us a free ride from Paksong going back to our accommodation in Pakse. Despite the language barrier and being a stranger, they still welcomed us in their van. We communicated through gestures and smiles until we said goodbye to them through handshake which is a unique experience.

From Pakse we took an overnight bus to Bangkok.

BANGKOK, THAILAND

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Wat Pho, Bangkok Thailand

Originally, we plan to stay in Bangkok for just 6 days but our allotted budget for Cambodia and Laos ran out. Since we got short of budget in Siem Reap, we decided to take our budget in Laos and mix it with Siem Reap. But as we read from travel forums that South of Laos is more expensive than the rest, we decided to cut Laos trip shorter and spend longer time in Bangkok to make our budget last. We ended up staying in Bangkok for 8 days. Bangkok is almost the same like the Philippines when it comes to cost of living. There are city buses that you can use for free or air-conditioned buses which cost from TBH 9-15 (PHP 14-25). Food are inexpensive from TBH 30- 100 (PHP 50- 150) with various options to choose from. For 8 days stay our TBH 6400 (PHP 10,000) made it for transportation, food, and entrance fee on the sites.

Our next stop, we took 4 and half hour direct flight to Bali, Indonesia thru Airasia.

BALI, INDONESIA

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Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia

I have to be honest, we totally love the place. Bali is such a paradise with a picturesque view and amazing sunset. However, the lack of public transportation like public buses and vans is a major drawback. Plus the fact that in some tourist spots like temples and waterfalls, Uber, Grabtaxi, and Go-Jek are banned. The cheapest way to go around Bali is to rent a motorbike but for travelers who don’t know how to ride a bike and drive a motorbike be prepare to spend more on taxis and private cars. The average taxi ride is IDR 100,000-300,000 (PHP 380-1,150) depending on the distance and depending on your haggling skills. We also experienced our Grab driver asking us to pay 3 times more of what is charged on the meter app. My tip to you, get a grab driver that has 5 stars rate on their profile only. For food, Indonesian food is close to Indian food, so better inform them ahead that you don’t want your food spicy before they make it because it will be hell of a spicy if you don’t.

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Sunset at Kuta Beach, Bali Indonesia

 

EXPENSES: for 1 person

 Transportation:

Manila, PH to Ho Chi Minh, VN via Cebu Pacific:PHP 2,599 (no check in baggage)

Ho Chi Minh, VN to Phnom Penh, KH via bus:      PHP 500

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, KH via bus:                  PHP 400

Siem Reap, KH to 4,000 Island, LAO via bus and boat: PHP 1,000

4,000 Island to Pakse, LAO via bus and boat:        PHP 305

Pakse, LAO to Bangkok, TH via bus:                          PHP 1,350

Bangkok, TH- Bali, IDN via Airasia flight:                  PHP 3,780 (no check in baggage)

Bali, IDN to Manila, PH via Airsia flight (lay over to Kuala Lumpur): PHP 6,198

 

Total: PHP 16,132

 

Accommodation: Private Double Room

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam:  PHP 3, 288 (5 nights)

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: PHP 1,290 (3 nights)

Siem Reap, Cambodia: PHP 1,196 (3 nights)

4,000 Island, Laos: PHP 900 (3 nights)

Pakse, Laos: PHP 700 ( 2 nights)

Bangkok Thailand: 1st hostel: PHP 900 (2 nights)

2nd hostel: PHP 2,448 (5 nights)

Bali, Indonesia: Ubud: PHP 1,852 (4 nights)

Kuta: PHP 1, 053 (2 nights)

 

Total: 13, 627                     divide by 2=  PHP 6, 813.50 each

 

Pocket Money:

PHP 25,000                      

 

TOTAL COST: PHP 47, 945.50

Cebu Travel Adventure: Things To Do in Cebu

Cebu is one of the most popular tourists’ destination in the Philippines. Whenever I am asked where I am from and I answered Philippines, most foreigners would say “Ah, Yeah, Philippines, Cebu!” Why not?? With all the fun activities, beautiful places and hospitable people, no wonder Cebu is talk of the town.

I am lucky enough to be invited to travel and explore this place and I must say it is a must visit. From their historical sites, to beaches, waterfalls and mountains, Cebu has a lot to offer.

THINGS TO DO:

Canyoneering in Kawasan

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Of course, when you search about activities in Cebu, this is the number one recommended activities to be done. This activity may last 4 to 5 hours depending on your speed or the tour group you are joining. This includes trekking, hiking, cliff jumping and swimming. I recommend for adrenaline junkies and also for people who don’t know how to swim but still want to experience something new. Life vest, proper shoes and helmets are provided for your safety.

How to get there:

From Cebu City Southern Bus Terminal take a bus to Badian or Oslob via  Bato, tell the bus conductor to drop you to Kawasan. The travel is estimated 3 to 4 hours depending on the bus.

Cost:

Bus Fare: Ordinary Bus Php 130                 Airconditioned Bus: Php 140- 150

Canyoneering: Php 1, 500

Guide: Joseph 0935 601 2354

*note: There are instances that the canyoneering activity will be cancelled due to heavy rain and may result for the water to be not clear enough and unsafe for the activity. Don’t argue with that! In my case I only did half canyoneering which lasted for 2 hours because of this reason. I connected with a local travel guide whom I highly recommend.

Bamboo Rafting

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Looking for a back massage? Ride a bamboo raft that will take you to the foot of the waterfalls. Lay your back down and feel the strong water current falling towards your back. It is soothing and relaxing.

Cost: Php 300/ person

HIKE OSMENIA PEAK

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Located in Dalaguete, Cebu this mountain has a perfect view of hills, clouds, islands and sea. To get there, ride a bus heading to Dalaguete from Southern Bus Terminal in Cebu City. Travel time is approximately 3 hours. From the bus drop off, motorbike drivers will offer you to the foot of Osmenia Peak where the hike starts estimated journey would be 30 minutes. Reaching the foot you have to register and pay for the entrance fee. You can hire a guide but you can also do-it-your-own since the trek is visible and easy.

Cost: Bus to Dalaguete: Ordinary Bus: Php 100                    Airconditioned Bus: Php 120

Motorbike to the foot of Osmenia Peak: Php 100/ person

Entrance Fee: Php 30

 

*Package Tour is available and it includes round trip transfer from Dalaguete to the start of hike and guide for Php 750/ pax. For inquiries contact Joseph 0935 601 2354.

 

HIKE SIRAO PEAK

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Unlike Osmenia Peak, Sirao Peak is more under rated and less popular hike but I can say that it’s almost the same like Osmenia Peak. It has a view of the mountains, sea, islands and city. Considering our accommodation located in Cebu City it is more accessible and easier to go than Osmenia. Since it is less popular, there were zero people when we went there. So, we were able to enjoy the silence and linger in the place for quite long.

To get there: Take a motorbike from JY Square Mall, tell the driver to take you to the backdoor trek starting point or Ayala Heights. Just follow the trek that leads to the peak. Estimated time of hike can be 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on your speed.

Cost: Motorbike to Ayala Heights: Php 100- 150/ person

Entrance Fee: Free

 

GO ON HISTORICAL TOUR:

MAGELLAN’S CROSS

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Pay a visit and light a candle to this attraction that was planted by the Spaniards after they successfully Christianized the Philippines. This cross is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street just in front of the city center of Cebu City and can be accessed on foot.

Entrance Fee: Free

 

FORT SAN PERDRO

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Just a walking distance from Magellan’s Cross you will find yourself to another historical attraction. Fuerte de San Pedro is a military defence structure in Cebu, built by the Spanish under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi, first governor of the Captaincy General of the Philippines. This place houses museums about the war between Lapu- Lapu and Magellan. Lectures are given upon entering the museums by friendly staff to enhance your knowledge about history.

 

Entrance Fee: Php 30

TAKE AN OOTD PICTURE IN TEMPLE OF LEAH

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Built by a well- known Cebuano businessman Teodorico Soriano Adarna for his late wife, Temple of Leah doesn’t only offer European inspired architectural construction but also a nice view from its wide balcony. With its location on top of the mountain, surely you can enjoy the sunset along with the mountain and city view.

How to get there: From JY Square Mall, take a motorbike to Temple of Leah.

Cost: Motorbike: Php 75/ person

Entrance Fee: Php 50

 

PRAY AND SAY YOUR WISHES TO TAOIST TEMPLE

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The Philippines is a Christian country so catholic churches are everywhere. It is just surprising to see a temple in the heart of a catholic region. This temple is located on a hill in an exclusive subdivision of Beverly Hills. The main altar or prayer room is sacred so taking photos of it is strictly prohibited. Enjoy sightseeing in the temple and its city view from the hill. You can pray to Taoist god and say your wishes. I tried it personally and it was a nice experience. If you wish to do the same, guidelines are posted in front of the prayer room. The answers to your wishes will be interpreted by a staff who is also a Taoist.

How to get there:

From JY Square Mall take a motorbike to Beverly Hills Subdivision. Since it’s an exclusive subdivision motorbikes are not allowed to enter. You have to walk going up to the temple for 15 minutes. You can ask the guard for direction. The road is cemented so no issues on walking.

Cost:

Motorbike to Beverly Hills: Php 30/ person

Entrance Fee: Free or by Donation

 

WHALE WATCHING IN BRGY. TAN-AWAN, OSLOB

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Another must do activity in Cebu. Brgy. Tan-awan was a fishing village before but it made noise when the whale sharks (butanding) start lingering in their place during the day. It made this quiet village into a top tourist destination. The whales usually stay in the place in the morning from 6 am to 12 noon. I advise that you go early as early as 7 am to see the whale sharks fresh and to avoid long line since it is tourist infested.

How to get there:

From Cebu City Southern Bus Terminal, take a bus to Oslob, tell the bus conductor to drop you to Brgy. Tan-awan. Travel time is approximately 3 hours. When you reach the whale watching site, you have to register. Then you will have a short orientation for the Dos and DON’Ts during the 30-minute whale watching activity. Next you pay for the activity and finally verification which includes distribution of life vest and snorkeling goggles.

Cost:

Bus Fare to Oslob: Php 149 (Ceres Aircondition bus)

Whale Watching on the boat:                     Filipino: Php 300               Foreigner: Php 500

Snorkeling/ Swimming with the Whales: Filipino: Php 500              Foreigner: Php 1,000

TAKE A SIDE TRIP TO SUMILON ISLAND

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When I searched about other things to do in Oslob aside from whale watching, Tumalog Falls came to my newsfeed. However, upon talking with the locals, they inform me that the water condition of the waterfalls in not ideal this time because of the heavy rain that occur the other day. They advise me to go to Sumilon Island instead in which I can do another round of snorkeling in Marine Sanctuary and beach bum in the white sand beach of Sumilon Island sandbar. It is totally worth it.

How to get there:

A local hooked me up with a boat operator that can let me go and leave the island on a flexi time. In case I want to leave the island, I just have to search their orange boat and tell them to take me back. I also bargained with the boat cost which ended up with a reasonable price.

Cost:

Round Trip Boat Fare: Php 600   * For inquiries, contact Jun Jun at 0942 529 5509

  • Note: the boat will stop at Marine Sanctuary for 30 minutes for snorkeling so be sure to rent a snorkeling gear, life vest is provided

Snorkeling Gear: Php 100

Sumilon Island Entrance Fee: Php 50

 

EXPLORE BANTAYAN ISLAND

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The main reason I came to Cebu is because of this island. During my backpacking in Boracay, my Lithuanian roommate talked about so many good things about this island and I can say it is my second favorite island in the Philippines next to Calayan Island. Though, a day trip is a little challenging to do especially that this island has so many things to offer. If you want to stay and enjoy the virginity of this place for quite long, I suggest you stay here for 2- 3 days.

How to get there:

We rode the 3 am Ceres airconditioned bus going directly to Bantayan. From Cebu City Northern Bus Terminal to Hagnaya Port, the estimated land travel time is 3 hours. From Hagnaya port we are asked to get off from the bus and purchase a ferry ticket. The sea travel is approximately one hour. When we reach Bantayan Island Santa Fe port we hoped back to our bus.

Cost:

Bus Fare: Php 200 via Ceres Airconditioned Bus directly to Bantayan Island

Ferry:   Php 170

 

PARADISE BEACH, BANTAYAN ISLAND

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My friend and I took the challenge of taking a day trip on this island disregarding all the discouragements we had from locals about our plan. We don’t want to be touristic and stay in the place for short time just to take pictures. We really wanted to absorb and enjoy the place for hours so we chose 2 places we really wanted to visit. One of them is Paradise Beach. This place has an excellent review on tripadvisor except the muddy and rocky road you have to take in going to this place. I am so much in love with this beach because it is comparable to Sibang Cove of Calayan Island. It is very peaceful, calm and not crowded. When we stayed here for 4 hours we only saw less than 10 tourists on the beach.

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How to get there:

From Santa Fe Port ride a motorbike to Paradise beach, it is 4.5 km away from the port so the estimated travel time is 20 minutes. The road is not cemented so expect it to be muddy, rocky and bumpy. From the main road, walk for 15 minutes following the path that will lead you to the entrance of the beach. Register and pay for the entrance fee.

Cost:

Motorbike to Paradise Beach from Santa Fe Port: Php 50/ person

Entrance Fee: Php 50

 

DAY VISIT TO OGTONG CAVE RESORT

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Since we are just doing a day trip to Bantayan, we choose the second place to be near Paradise beach and can be accessed on foot. Ogtong Cave Resort houses the famous clear blue water lagoon, Ogtong Cave. The resort also has stunning fine white sand beach and pool however the room rates are quite expensive. But, if you are going on a day trip you can access the cave, pool and beach including shower room for Php 100 per person. So, yeah!! It’s a good deal.

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How to get there:

From Santa Fe Port, ride a motorbike or tricycle and tell the driver to take you to Ogtong Cave Resort.

In our case, we came from Paradise beach so upon reaching the main road, we asked the locals about the direction to Ogtong Cave Resort. We turned right from the main road and followed the path. It is not difficult to find because it is along the road and it took us around 20-30 minute walk to the reach the place. #CertifiedBackpackers 😛

Cost:

Entrance Fee: Php 100

*Note: Bantayan Island is a huge island and I can say you need more than a day to explore every bit of it. While on a motorbike ride to Paradise beach, our driver who works in the tourism office of Bantayn politely offered us different day trip packages which includes 7 different places and activities like snorkeling in Virgin Island for Php 1, 600 for the two of us. Although the package is a catch we still decline it because we wanted to stick to our original plan.

If you are interested regarding this package you may contact Jun at 0935 986 8132.

Here’s the travel video to summarize all the buttloads of fun I had..

SAGADA TO BANAUE TO BATAD : JOURNEY TO PHP 20 BILL

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Here comes Holy Week my favorite holiday because I can take a time off from work and I still get paid.

Last year we touched down the place in PHP 50 bill which is the Taal Volcano. This time, we decided to do a 3-day backpacking journey to PHP 20 bill, Batad Rice Terraces.

We started our journey leaving Baguio City at 4 in the morning to Sagada via GL Trans. One adult ticket costs Php 250. We reached Sagada at 10 am so the travel was approximately 6 hours with 2 stops in Atok, Benguet and Bontoc for breakfast and toilet beak.

The bus driver dropped us in our accommodation, Big Dipper Inn which is 20 minutes from “Sentro” (Provincial Center) on foot. A night stay cost Php 400 but we stayed for 2 nights and it costs Php 700 each person. Right after we settled we are started our journey.

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Our accommodation in Sagada. Contract: Ms. Gwen Gaongen at 0916 755 3414

 

SENTRO

This place is like the provincial business center in which you can find the Tourism Office, Souvenir Shops, Restaurants, Cafes, Inns and Jeepney Stations.

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Lemon Pie, must try in Sagada. You can find this almost every cafe in Sagada.

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Tourism Information Office. You can find all the guides and information you need here.
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Yogurt Bowls (Honey & Banana Coconut), another mus try in Sagada.

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*Note before you start doing your activities, you must register first at the Tourism Office and pay Php 35 registration fee. A receipt will be given and this receipt will be checked when you are entering different sites.

CAVE CONNECTION (LUMIANG TO SUMAGUING CAVE)

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LUMIANG CAVE

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Lumiang Burial Coffins

One of the most challenging and best experience in Sagada. This 3 to 4 hours caving journey from Lumiang to Sumaguing Cave is a must try for people with nerves who are after adventures. Make sure to wear comfortable shorts or pants (not jeans) as you will be walking while sitting, crawling, hugging, climbing and sliding on the rocks. A guide is required in doing this activity because one wrong move and uhmm you will be dead. A guide fee costs Php 800 per group but limited to two people. More than 2, addition of Php 400 each person.

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SUMAGUING CAVE

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For less adventurous people but still want to try caving, Sumaguing Cave is recommended. A guide fee of Php 500 for 4 people and Php 600 for 5 visitors. For bigger groups of 6 or more people 2 to 3 guides are required and that costs Php 1000- 1500. You may also have optional 2- way shuttle service from your inns to the caves which cost Php 350.

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The Turtle!
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Chocolate Cake

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ECHO VALLEY AND HANGING COFFINS

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Access Fee: Php 10

Guide Fee: Php 200 per group

ECHO VALLEY

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The way going to Hanging Coffins. It is called Echo Valley because when you shout it echoes.

HANGING COFFINS

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An old burial practice of the Igorots during the Pre- Hispanic era. Relatives and family of the deceased mummifies the body, put it in a coffin, travel the beaten path and orderly place it on the caves.

 

KILTEPAN PEAK

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My most favorite place! It’s my first time to witness the sunrise as it goes up to the sky from behind the mountains. It was lovely with the sea of clouds in front of it. Be sure to be there before 5:30 am to get a good place for the view as it is infested with too much tourists.

 

BOMOD-OK FALLS

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Bomod-ok means “big” in Mt. Province’s native dialect. This 200 meter high and 20 meter deep, clear white waterfalls (even it rains) is hiding behind rice paddies and small villages.

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To get there you need to ride a jeepney to Banga-an from the Sentro which cost Php 30. Then you will be trekking for approximately 1 ½ hours down the rice paddies and villages with a guide (cost Php 500). Registration Fee: Php 10

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This tent serve as the information center in going to Bomod-ok Falls . You pay your registration fee and you get your guide here too.

 

Note: Most of Accommodations, cafes and restaurants in Sagada don’t have internet connection.

Smart doesn’t have a cell site in Sagada so expect a weak signal on your phone while Globe has a good one.

There’s one ATM machine in Tourism Office in the Sentro.

 

JOURNEY FROM SAGADA TO BATAD

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On our third day, we took a shot to go to Batad on our own without any accommodation. We don’t have any idea how to get there since our inn has no internet connection and we can’t see any café that has wifi so we just depend by asking the locals.

We left Sagada early at around 6:30 am to Bontoc via jeepney (cost Php 40). Upon reaching Bontoc at 7: 30 am a guy approached us and took us to a jeepney going to Banaue. We were told to wait for more passengers. When the jeepney reaches up to 10 passengers then it leaves. Unfortunately, there were only 8 of us so the guy tried to bargain that if we pay the fair of the remaining 2 absent passengers, the jeepney will leave. Jeepney ride to Banaue from Bontoc costs Php 150 so if we pay for the 2 absent passengers fair it will be around Php 190. Sadly, some of the passengers prefer to wait for 2 more passengers. Gladly, the driver arrives at 9 am and starts the engine with only 8 passengers.

The driver was heaven-sent. He is not only a good driver because he didn’t charge us with additional fees but he also stopped us at different scenic views along the road including the Maligcong Rice Terraces in Bontoc.

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Our first stop! The driver was kind enough to stop the jeepney for a while for us to see this view. 🙂 

 

MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES

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Another picturesque view! Kudos to our driver for stopping the jeepney to witness this scenery.

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BANAUE VIEW DECK

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We reached Banaue at around 11 am but the jeep going to Batad will leave at 1pm so we have time to grab a bite. The jeepney was already overloaded with passengers and thank God the driver decided to go at 12 noon without following the 1 pm schedule. During the ride we ask the local on how to go Batad Rice Terraces. One local offered us accommodation if we stay overnight but we politely refuse since we plan to go back to Baguio that same day. Then she offered to guide us but when we ask how much, she just answered “It depends!” Hoestly, her response made me raise my eyebrow but we still asked for a quotation. “Php 500- 800” she responded . This got us a little disappointed as we think this is overpriced. We just refuse her again and told her we’ll just settle on the view deck.

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A little stop in the middle of the trek to see this view.

We trek the narrow ways following the trail until we reach the view deck.

BATAD VIEW DECK

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Never contented with the view and desiring to be up close to the rice paddies we continued to trek down the narrow ways with our heavy backpacks without any idea where we’re heading. Good thing we met some locals along the way who direct us until we reached the paddies. Our Php 500 is saved.. haha 😛

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THAT IS IT! PANCIT! OUR PHP 20 BILL TRAVEL GOAL TOUCHED DOWN!!

THE RED CITY: Malacca, Malaysia

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Historic city, this is the identity of Malacca (Melaka in Bahasa). During the 1300s this tiny little city was a fishing village ruled by a sultanate. Since it is a coastal city, traders from China, Indonesia and other Asian countries come and go to Malacca to barter their products. Until 1511 when Portuguese colonized Malacca for their ambition to control the trade networks of Asia.

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Bahasa traders before the Portuguese occupation.

 

Malacca is a small city that is accessible on foot especially if you stay in the city center as you will find all the attractions just next to each other. Coming from Singapore, you can reach this city around 5 hours by bus including the long line in the immigration departing Singapore and entering Malaysia.

Malacca is cheap. Yes! It is, that’s why some Singaporeans travel to Malacca not just for holiday but also for cheap buys, services and Malaysian food.

We departed Singapore at 8:00 am via Luxury Coach Service bus located in Orchard Road and reach Malacca at 2 pm. Since it is holiday a long line in the Singapore immigration made this supposed to be 4 hours trip to 6 hours, plus the fact that the immigration officer is on training that made the departure process slower.

After we settled in our hotel room, we start exploring this city. We started on a street nearby our hotel to grab a bite. We pass through Pahlawan Shopping Center to reach the museums as advised by a local we chatted in a restaurant. This is a good strategy to beat the heat because the weather was burning hot.

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MYR 5 (Php 40) curry lunch. 

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St. Paul’s Hill

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There will be quite a hike reaching this place. On top you will find a panoramic view of the city seeing European influenced architectural building. The chapel was built by a Portuguese fidalgo or nobleman, Duarte Coelho, as an act of gratitude following his escape from a storm in the South China Sea but only ruins was left with old Portuguese tombstone.

 

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View on top of the hill.
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Portuguese tombstone.
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Ruins left from the chapel.

Dutch Square

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I read from another blogger that there’s nothing special here. I agree since we just have to stare at the red building, look at the well and fall in line to take a picture of “I LOVE MELAKA” sign. Oh, if you are up for the noisy trishaw, dozens of them are parked in this place.

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The noisy trishaw.

Church of Saint Francis Xavier

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We continue to walk and we pass by this church. I’m not Catholic but, uhm just in case you are there and it’s Sunday you might wanna pay a visit and attend their mass.

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We continued to walk and we found ourselves following the route of Malacca River. A good friend of mine told me about the Malacca River Cruise. It is a 45-minute river cruise experience in which you will indulge in the beauty of colorful mural paintings from the restaurants by the river during day time and will be amused by the bright lights experience at night. A descent price of MYR 16 (PHP 128) is worth the hype along with the classical music played during the ride.

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DAY 2

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A Famosa

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One of the oldest surviving European architecture in Southeast Asia built in 1511. It is a Portuguese fortress built by Alfonso D’ Alboquerque who attacked and defeated the Malacca Sultanate.

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Malacca Sultanate Palace

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Istana Kesultanan Melaka in Bahasa is a palace-turned-museum that introduces Malaccan life before Portuguese invasion of the city. Here, you will learn the life of a sultan and his sultana and their trading system in the past. Entrance Fee: MYR 5 (PHP 40).

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The Sultan’s room.
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The Sultan and his Sultana.

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Taming Sari

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If you are up for more experience in Malacca I suggest trying out the Taming Sari Tower. This 7-minute ride up to the tower will give you a chance to see the whole city on different views. This costs MYR 23 (PHP 184).

Hua Tho Foot Reflexolfy Centre

After a lot of walking our feet deserves some pampering. We just accidentally found this while looking for a nail salon to have our manicure and pedicure but we ended up having an hour foot massage for MYR 40 (PHP 320) highly recommended and NO TIPS needed.