Saturday, November 29, 2014

La Sagrada Família

Hello from sunny Barcelona! The warm sunshine in this coastal city welcomed our weary souls after having survived an overnight train ride from Paris. And yay! We made it to our second country! Somehow Barcelona felt familiar, weirdly nostalgic even. It felt like coming home to a city you have never been in. Maybe that's why we easily navigated our way to our first hostel, like we had been doing it like last time. To get to our hostel, we took the Metro in Barceloneta, a walking distance from Estació de França where our Renfe train from Paris terminated.

We had an early checkin at our hostel, allowing us to take a rest on real beds and not just on reclinable seats! (The horrors of our train ride that we quickly tried to put behind us.) But my cousin had to stay back for a while because of fatigue from our journey. That journey was really exhausting and we needed to recharge our energy. I went out first and we just decided to meet up at La Sagrada Família. 'Coz you know, we have been in Barcelona many times that we know exactly where we want to go. Not!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Continuing our foot journey on our second day in Paris, we challenged again our sense of direction in getting from Jardin du Luxembourg to Notre Dame Cathedral. From the garden, we farther walked along the narrow streets and amused ourselves by taking photos along the way while hoping to reach the Cathedral without a hitch. It seems not to be a famous option for the tourists because we only saw mostly locals during our mini adventure. In hindsight, for me that was more enjoyable than squeezing ourselves to find a nice spot to actually see a certain renowned structure, for example. Staying out from the commotion in the touristy places and be able to take in what Paris is really all about, the quintessential architecture of its buildings, the random finds tucked away in its corners and the inexplicable charms that whisked away many people to stay in Paris for a long term or even for good.

While it is impossible for me to remain in Paris for a long time, battling with the crowds is the only choice I have. But no matter how the famous landmarks get swarmed by hordes of tourists, it is always worth it in the end. And the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris bears no exception.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg from Tour Montparnasse (Zoomed in photo)

A hypothetical conversation...

Girl A: Where are we heading next?
Girl B: Since we are conveniently on top of Tour Montparnasse, let's look around!
Girl A: Hey, how about that patch of foliage over there?
Girl B: Hmmm... That seems a great idea. Let's head over there!

Because when you're on top, everywhere seems to be just a walking distance! :p Well, was that the case in the past? Back in time, when the rich had carriages to take them anywhere and the less privileged had only their feet. Somehow, Europe always makes me think of those bygone eras. It may be because almost every corner of the European cities we've visited, was just plainly historical. I even have this afterthought that Europe seems to be stuck in time and I'm not saying that in a demeaning way. Of course, modernity is there but it is impressive how history and modernity simply coexist.

Okay enough of that. Back to the present times, I like to think that we are the mere equivalent of those ordinary people in the past. No carriages to bring us to the gardens. So, we decided to walk in going to Jardin du Luxembourg from Tour Montparnasse. But the only difference this time around was that we had GPS. lol

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On Top of Tour Montparnasse

Our second day was a bright sunshiny day in Paris. The blue autumn sky looked promising for our day ahead and we couldn't choose a more perfect time to visit the 210-meter Tour Montparnasse. This lone skyscraper dwarfs the much shorter buildings around it, making it quite easy to spot.

We had been getting ourselves to higher elevations, to see bird's eye views of Paris, knowing we couldn't have possibly roamed Paris in a grander scale because of time constraints. If it's one way to know a bit more of this far away place then, we are in.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Walking around Montmartre

A random street in Montmartre

Having visited the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacré Cœur, we felt that we had enough for our first day in Paris. After all, we needed to save our energy for the rest of this 2-week trip, the longest I had so far that time ever since I jumped into employment 8 years ago. Getting back to work after that was an ordeal although, the bills had helped me to snap back to reality. haha Anyway, let's not further delve into that.

Coming down from Sacré Cœur, my cousin and I headed down towards the streets in Montmartre. You know, just being random and only an offline map to reassure our way from time to time. I am such an impulsive person that random walks, are some of the things I enjoy the most. For truth be told, it's always liberating to ditch the plans. But Breinn is not always keen on this, sadly. Am I really that strange? And I digress again.

So, we walked around Montmartre, taking in the realness of Paris and hoping we veered away from the tourist crowds as far as possible. (I tell you, it's difficult!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sacré Cœur de Montmartre

Basilica of  the Sacred Heart of Paris

Keeping the ground running, we went to our last agenda for the day while taking advantage of our endurance before jet lag kicks in. Sacré Cœur Basilica is located in Montmartre district in Paris. It sits on top of a hill which is the highest point in the city. So, if you want panoramic view of Paris for free, just head over to this hill in Montmartre. And for more sweeping views (because you can't just get enough), you can likewise climb the dome of the church but for a fee.

Paris has been kind to us, the neophytes for we navigated the city in a breeze. Thanks to the city's public transportation that is really convenient. One can figure it out easily even with zero French knowledge. Even though, I don't like crowds in general but this time, I was grateful because the tourist crowd had led us the way from the Metro to the church without us getting lost among the narrow Rues. We couldn't imagine mouthing Sacré Cœur to a local that we might ended up saying just Sacred Heart to save us from obvious shame. haha

Friday, October 3, 2014

To More Sunrises...

I spent three weeks back home last December. A time well spent with family, running around the city for my endless errands, cocooning at our home in the province and putting back some needed weight with my mother's home-cooked meals. Even if a three-week break seems to be long, I still wish it was longer when it ended. I guess, good times always end this way. You always end up wanting more.

While I wonder how time can fly so fast, I think that the precious moments with the ones you hold dear, are the very things that we can refute against time's mockery. Those moments that make lasting memories and those moments that you can look back blissfully. No regrets but only a smile on your face.

I might have been all over the place on this holiday but nonetheless, I was able to squeeze in a very impromptu trip to Argao, a town in Southern Cebu. It was out on a whim that Breinn and I found ourselves getting on a night bus for a 3-hour travel going south. I only packed for thirty minutes. It was delirious, to say the least. But we didn't know that the two following mornings would have us under a spell.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Arc de Triomphe

After saying "Hello" to the Eiffel Tower, we hopped on the Metro once again to get to the Arc de Triomphe. Having arrived in Paris from Asia in the morning, we were able to have an incredibly long day as a kickstart. The excitement had definitely fueled us till we collapsed to our bed rightfully at night, already in Paris time.

This was a free and easy trip which meant we were at our own pace. We could choose to linger wherever we want, take photographs to our hearts' content and not to force ourselves to listen to a tour guide's spiels, which more often than not, is about what time you need to get back to your tour bus. (Speaking from experience...)

It was our first time in Paris and it is I think, forgivable that we stopped by at the famous landmarks even though the tourist crowds dominate these places. (But hey! We are tourists alright.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Checking in and out at the Eiffel Tower

Excuse my ugly short fingers... ruining the Eiffel Tower view.

When we were finally settled in our lovely room in Paris, we quickly refreshed ourselves, hoping the arduous long-haul flight won't take a toll on us and make us give in to our brightly-colored bed, which was very tempting. Jet lag was yet another foreign concept to us that time so, we made our way to the Metro that got us to Trocadero, giddy with excitement. Trocadero is famous for having a great vantage of the Eiffel Tower.

Why straight to the Eiffel Tower, you may ask? Well, there is that perennial joke I always hear when someone is new to a place, one has to bow and kiss "something" in that new place. But I never saw anyone actually doing it but it makes a good guffaw every time. A conniving excuse to pick on someone, really.

And NO. We did not kiss the ground in Trocadero because it would be icky given the multitudes of people that were there. The Eiffel Tower was a reassurance to us that we were not just dreaming when we got on a plane and landed in a different continent.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finally Hotels in Brussels and Paris

Hotel de Ville de Bruxelles (Brussels Town Hall)

No, we did not stay in this historic building that looks very grand, because this is Brussels' Town Hall. And that's a real sky right there. The blue sky looked magical at night, and that it was almost unreal, like a stage backdrop for some Gothic play.

Anyway, I don't have photos of our hotels again save for one or two. This explains why I am posting filler photos to make this a little more decent. lol

Hotels! Yes at last, we stayed in hotels for our last three nights in Europe! Hotels wherein we got our own bathroom, all to ourselves! Yay! Both our budget hotels but still...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Amsterdam Hotelboat

Our hotel boat in Amsterdam, aptly called Amsterdam Hotelboat.

When I was looking for a place to stay in Amsterdam, topping the search list are hotel boats. Of course, I was searching for affordable ones and by that I mean, €30/night/person or less. Lumping many countries (which in our case was 6) in one trip can be expensive because one would need to transfer from country to country. However, cross-country trains can also be cheaper if booked well in advance and it's now the era of budget airlines so, frugality can still be a way to go.

But then for us, mere employees who get our dough entirely by working, cheap train and airline tickets will still be congruent to affordable accommodations.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our Other Stories in Bangkok

Aside from food, there were other things that occupied our time in Bangkok. Although I must admit, food became a focal point anywhere we went and it wasn't hard at all when almost every corner in Bangkok, there are food carts. I haven't expected myself to morph into something like this but here I am now, as if every travel must now revolve around food. Does it come with age? Anyhow, I digress. But does it even matter? :D

Victory Monument

While we waited for our departure time to the floating market, we spent some time on an elevated walkway, staring at this roundabout and just watching Bangkok's traffic. Of course, munching on green mangoes, dipped in chilli for good measure.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gastronomic Heaven That's Bangkok

Only a weekend in Bangkok may be sadly short but it doesn't mean, happiness is difficult to find. Even the consequence of being a modern-day slave with far too limited vacation leaves, can become a trivial thing. Instead of sulking on such fact, I believe that there is yet a silver lining in everything forlorn. For making most out of the things at hand, can get us from today's worries to tomorrow's hopes.

Oh the melodrama that has gotten into me after sorting out my Bangkok photos! (Gutom lang 'to! haha) To break away from this anticlimactic spell, here are my photos as evidence of my resolve of fulfilling my appetite in Bangkok. When Kate, my friend based in Bangkok, asked me on what I wanted to do, the only thing that I could think of was food. Can you blame me?

This coconut ice cream in Khao San Road. 'Coz it's about time, we start with desserts!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Being late for Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

I had another weekender up in Bangkok in November last year and this time, with friends. No definite plans prior except that we intend to stay with married friends, based in Bangkok. All we needed was to book our plane tickets and bring ourselves.

We had an evening flight on a Friday from Singapore and arrived in Bangkok quite late. Yes, we got to make use of the one hour difference between the two cities, with Bangkok's earlier timezone. But having arrived in our friend's apartment, we succumbed to late night conversations till the wee hours of the morning. Of course, with friends you rarely see, how could it not be a given? :D

Come Saturday. We dragged ourselves out from bed and the only push we had was that we were only there for the weekend!

Our motorboat at the start of our journey

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hosteling in Barcelona, Rome, and Cologne

A residential area in Barcelona

I just realized that I don't have pictures of our rooms in Barcelona, Rome, and Cologne but to make up for it, I am including some random pictures that I took there (like the one above although it's totally unrelated haha). As I have mentioned in my previous post about our Airbnb room in Paris, there are countries where we had availed cheaper accommodation. These were Barcelona in Spain and Rome in Italy. And the wonderful weather in these two cities, was an additional bonus we warmly enjoyed! Sunny days and blue skies in autumn? Yes please!

Meanwhile, our stay in Cologne was also relatively cheap but it wasn't that much of a nice experience. More on this later.

It is not my first time to stay in a hostel, where this type almost always equates to dorm-type rooms. I had my first time in Seoul, South Korea and my experience was good that I readily welcome the idea of doing it again. Most likely for me, because I don't prefer staying at big hotel chains with amenities I might not avail. Besides, I really don't have the money to burn to begin with! hehe #thirdworldproblems But I am not all too sure if that's really a bad thing since cozy and more homey stay is of my preference. Whatever floats our boats, my dear friends. ;)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Our Accommodation in Europe: AirBnb in Paris, France

Location of our first pad, the Parisian way

The cost of accommodation in Europe can be a huge chunk of your travel budget unless you can crash into a relative's or a friend's pad. But such was not our case. There is another alternative which is couchsurfing but we chose not to.  So we were left with finding our own roof, carefully sifting through hundreds for that good and affordable one.

We went to a total of 6 countries in Western Europe and it was good that some of these countries offered cheaper stay over the others. Somehow, it got balanced out in the end that while we spent several nights in dorm-type rooms, we were able to book a nice hotel room during the other nights.

Factors that we considered were price (of course), location and safety (because we were only 2 girls!). We only had a span of 2 weeks for this trip so, it came as obvious that we needed to stay in a convenient location. We came from a distant land that it was imperative to wisely manage our precious time there!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My Travel Notes: Ho Chi Minh City

Blogging has been slow like usual. Well, what can I expect from myself who is greatly swayed by emotions, mood and everything else in between in order to write something or to do anything for that matter? It must be a blessing in disguise that I end up in another profession otherwise, I would starve myself to death for being a procrastinator. On second thought though, I still do write in my work but writing codes is a totally different beast altogether. Uhm... I have no idea where this paragraph leads so, this is its abrupt end. Sorry.

Now back to Ho Chi Minh City. I can't believe that in a few weeks time, it will already be one year since Breinn and I had a quick visit to this Vietnamese city! And now that I think about it, we are almost at the third quarter of the year! How time can easily slip away just like that, huh?!

But before time makes a clever pass at me again, let me go straight ahead to this post's main topic. My travel notes about our weekend in Ho Chi Minh City.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Weekend Affair of Vietnamese Food

Immediately, a bowl of pho is in order.

Breinn and I went to Ho Chi Minh City in July last year and up until now, I have nothing but good words on how we stuffed ourselves with delectable food most of the time there. We savored every bit of the experience, knowing it was a real value for our meager budget.

Heading to this Vietnamese city was as always, an impulsive decision by me, with Breinn as a defenseless conspirator. The city came about when I managed to book our plane tickets at a price that's within my range of plane fares around Southeast Asia and that's a price I only set for myself! So, to include Breinn in that plane fare, consider it as "Buy 1 Take 1"? lol

Because sometimes, I can be stingy beyond human comprehension, I told Breinn that US$100 was enough for both of us for the entire weekend. By carefully avoiding superfluous tourist pitfalls, the amount surely did go a long way for us. How about all of these mouth-watering nice things in support to that?

And to begin...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Prancing around the Reunification Palace

The wide green open space in the Reunification Palace is too pretty to ignore that it easily became a reason to be ridiculously gleeful, while Breinn had no choice but to consent. Although with obvious hesitation. But I didn't care. It didn't matter either that there was a bus full of tourists about to exit just when I skipped and hopped on the rain-soaked grass. I got the feeling that he wished he could disappear and I knew when it comes down to it, he would certainly deny to have known me. haha

How could anyone pass up admiring this beautiful lawn though? Undoubtedly, I could spend an entire day here! The palace was actually designed by a Vietnamese architect who studied in Paris and the palace's layout which overlooks the city with a lush front yard and towering trees in between, is reminiscent of Paris, yes. To experience a bit of France in Southeast Asia, just why not right?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our Transport Across Europe Part II

Having basked in the autumn sun in Barcelona and Rome for a week, we then headed up north to experience yet again Europe's autumn chill. Sure, we wanted to feel what autumn is really like because we don't have it at home, for crying out loud! haha

To get there fast ('coz we couldn't be more excited with the cold! uhm... not really...), we took a flight from the eternal city to the Dutch capital.

Starting from Amsterdam, we already commuted by train which is the very essence of traveling across Europe, yes? And just why not? When their train network is one of a kind in this world! Not to mention the high-speed trains passing through Europe's idyllic farms and villages. Ahh, could it be better than that? This may be already a battered cliché but train travel in Europe is an amazing experience in itself!

Here's how we hopped on trains during the second half of our Euro trip. The first part you can check it over here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Transport Across Europe Part I

Two weeks of scratching Western Europe's surface still takes a great deal of planning although the internet makes it a lot easier these days. Enter your keyword search and it then becomes a buffet. Well, I don't mean the food but the extensive information you'd likely get after. It will be mental gluttony.

Although for the fun of it, I don't mind the idea of scouring books in the library and actually phoning accommodation. Uhm, on second thought, I'd rather not. I may be just a little heady at this moment. And I couldn't imagine racking up my phone bill!

Estació de França in Barcelona, Spain 

Well anyway, in my first post about my Euro trip last fall, I listed down the countries that my cousin and I had come up, while letting go of those far-off places that we wished we could squeeze in. For truth be told, we are only humans with no superpowers, a limited time frame and most importantly, a frugal budget.

Even if we had earnestly narrowed down into a list of 6 countries for a trip of 2 weeks, it was still a major part of the plan on how we could exactly get from one country to another. Where to book? What's the cheapest and convenient way? And so on.

Six countries can be too many for others but we were also working on the possibility that we might no longer have a chance to do this all over again. Aside from the fact, that we worked our asses off to make this happen. Any worker ant out there as well?

But let's get down to business, shall we? This does not however, include our flight that got us to Paris from Singapore.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ho Chi Minh's War Remnants Museum

All throughout that July afternoon, we were getting away from the rain like sodden wayward birds. On one occasion, we cozied into an already crowded coffee shop as we waited for the torrential rains to abate. When we deemed the rain to be only just a drizzle, we decided to head out again, only to be caught up with the strong showers a minute into our hopeful presumption.

That time, we only had the wee roof of a bus stop as our shelter.

As we huddled under it along with some locals who had similar fate with us, something briefly went inside my mind. What if we randomly took a bus that would lead us to God-knows-where? I doubted Breinn would be elated with such an idea though. So, I promptly dropped the thought before I could suggest it to him. I then told him that the War Remnants Museum was only halfway around the block, making us to quickly decide to proceed. We ended up scurrying the rest of the way towards the museum as I caught a glimpse of an approaching local bus. I might have let go of a sigh.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ho Chi Minh's Central Post Office

After Baguio, I again found myself getting caught up with rain showers in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Roughly two months after. The rain must be persistent in trying to test my will. But I could only respond with giddiness and spontaneous glee as I ran around under the rain, with my hand nestled in somebody else's.

The only concern that surfaced was for the circumstantial things we had, namely my camera and our phones. Otherwise, we could have easily soaked up the rain, both literally and figuratively.

But I may be the only one who's truthfully up for it, I suppose. So when the threat of rain was a matter to be reckoned, Breinn and I dashed towards the Central Post Office, joining the crowd that's already gathering there.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pondering on the Into the Wild Movie

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more..."
- Lord Byron

I am doing this for the very first time, where "this" means I am writing my thoughts about a movie. However, it doesn't mean I am shifting the course of this blog into something else. For truth be told, I want to keep the majority of things from going haywire as much as possible, because it's the very least I can do to myself amid life's perpetual anomalies.

Into the Wild is my random pick one fine day, when I gave Google these search keywords, "2007 movies". I scanned through the movie thumbnails of what I presumed too mainstream and then, this particular movie caught my interest.

Honestly, I didn't expect much anything from this movie. I gravely thought of it, as a notch higher than Euro Trip's plot. That bad. But I was dead wrong. Like shamefully wrong. That worse. 

Is there ever a quote, Don't judge a movie by its title? Because certainly that's what I had in mind as the movie progressed. I don't read movie reviews, by the way. I believe it ruins the randomness of it all.

Movie cover from Wikipedia

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Travel Notes: Baguio City

My little nook for a second in PMA Baguio

I wish my family and I could have spent more days in Baguio. With this trip, we were only able to do a few things, at our leisurely pace, of course. We have allotted 4 days in this trip but since Baguio is far from where we are, the commute each way can easily eat up one day.

But before I continue on this woeful afterthought, let me share a summary of our brief experience in the summer capital of the Philippines. It won't be a string of disappointments and regrets, I promise. Because even if we were hard pressed with time, it was one of those few instances in our lives, that we get to bond as a family outside the comforts of home.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Our Brief Affair with Baguio's Food

A sensory overload salad in Cafe by the Ruins

I have this high expectation set for the food scene in Baguio. The excitement I have for their local dishes. Ingredients, fresh as they can be. Baguio is near the source after all. If I can find Baguio's produce in Cebu's markets quite decent enough. How much more there? For vegetables that can only survive in cold places, the rest of the country mainly rely on the farms in the highlands. Don't get me started with fruits! Strawberries and oranges anyone?

But when I was actually there, it didn't exactly pan out the way I have imagined. It was like there's this needle pinching my bubble of ideal fantasies. But hey, nothing works out perfectly all the time right? Fantasies are in fact, only fantasies to begin with.

What am I talking about, really? The above salad is a total disconnect from this feeble issue.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Typhoon Haiyan, The Aftermath

Sunrise at home, 2 weeks after Haiyan.

My family lives in a quiet and very parochial town in the Northern part of Cebu. Oftentimes, people don't recognize the town's name and oftentimes consequently, I resort to mention that my town is located before the city of Bogo. Not to drag on one's confusion, he or she may just nod and feign or otherwise, that he or she totally gets me. I don't get offended by this, really. Somehow, it comforts me to know that I can still detach myself from the chaos and cocoon to this secret place where nobody seems to know.

With the recent super typhoon however, Tabogon has made its way to the news, though it is collectively mentioned as part of Northern Cebu. Not that it even matters. I'd rather have my town retain its unpopularity in this case.

Two weeks into the recovery from Haiyan, I flew from Singapore to my hometown. Given that it was only for the weekend, I knew I won't be doing much but I felt that I just had to be there. To be home with my family.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Itinerary: Western Europe in 15 Days

High up in the Monserrat Monastery in Spain

I've been meaning to pick up where I left off eons ago, with my previous series of posts. But it dawned on me that the relevant photos are in my external hard drive and there's no way I can read it using my tablet. Before I can settle this predicament, hopefully in a matter of days, I'm starting a kick off post about my fleeting Euro trip that I wish, had lasted forever. You know what they say. All good things come to an end.

Anyway. I seriously have no idea how to go about this because I could write forever, detailing even to the tiniest bit. But I guess that would be a little too much. Even my old self someday, would not appreciate.

So here it goes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2013 Travel Roundup

Happy New Year! It may be weeks already from January 1st but the Lunar New Year is coming up so, my greeting is still appropriate. Agree? Anyway. Thank heavens for I can still find enough reason for everything!

Updates on this blog have been really sparse at the end of 2013 and it occurs to me that this recurring absence is nothing but a part of a natural course. Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Joys and sorrows. Bitter and sweet. Synonymous to my life actually. For this blog is of course, one of the many threads that knit together and consequently becomes me. I like to believe that I have these numerous aspects in my life, to make myself sound interesting. lol

Before I succumb to self-indulgence and before my patience runs out from writing on a tablet, here's what my 2013 has fared. To preempt myself, I think it has been a great year. Generally.

February in South Korea

Clad in Peter Pan-ish attire, I braved winter for the first time in South Korea. It was also my first official solo trip to a country where the only people I knew was a scanty number of its celebrities. I had to come up with some names to my folks, you know.