Wednesday, November 21, 2012

La Union: Drive, Surf, Eat!

As part of our annual team building, we agreed to go North this time and do some adrenaline rush activities such as suuuurfing! 
It took us around 5 and a half hour drive from Pampanga to La Union, including stop overs. We didn't experience any heavy traffic on our way to La Union but there were some roads under construction that made our travel longer. I suggest that you leave or travel midnight to avoid the hassle and heavy traffic. 

La Union is becoming the Surfing Capital of the North. It was said that July-February is the best time to go surfing because of good swells and more consistent waves. During our visit, we were able to attend the Last day of the Surf Break Season held last Oct. 26-28. It definitely was a great time to surf, rock some Beach party and enjoy some booze! And oh, La Union also has great restos to dine and get bloated. Just do some surfing after to shed or burn some calories! haha 

"Because Everyday we are given a Chance to Conquer our Fears! 
So Get up, Head up and Dare Yourself!"
Surfing lesson costs 200Php/hr for the board and 200Php/hr with surfing instructor. Happy to get a discount, thanks Kuya Junior! =)
The Winning Art Piece during the recently held Surf Break by Mike Chan Tan. 
My Surfing Instructor: Junior Ventura (0905-3099652). 
He is also Philippines' First Single Fin Longboard Champ. 
Thanks for the encouraging words and for the patience. It was indeed a great surfing experience. All i can say is,  I'm STOKED!  

So how did my surfing go? 
I was anxious at first because doing push-ups is really hard for me. In surfing you need a good push and balance in order to stay up. I was really happy to be able to do it on first attempt and also experience a long ride! Yoohoo!  It's definitely a wrap for my beginner's surfing session! And as i always say to myself, you'll never know until you try! Never stop challenging self and discovering more. And oh, if you haven't read my previous blog i'll mention this again: I am not really a good swimmer but i was able to do some surfing. It will just take a little courage.

 The Students and the Gurus (They call themselves the Feral Team). A short but definitely a refreshing break. 

Never leave La Union without trying some of their local restaurants.
Going Loko (Tagalog word for "Crazy") over Halo Halo de Iloko!
Definitely a must try resto if you visit La Union. Everything was Delicioso! It was indeed a "Happy Tummy" experience. 

Gluttony at its finest!
Sisig, Okoy, Emparedados, and oh don't forget the yummy dessert... Halo Halo!
What makes the Halo halo special? The yummy yema, it's refillable! Droooooling. 

Thanks for adopting us! 
It is located along the main road, opposite side of Sebay and it's around 200-300m away from the beach. They also have a restaurant, which serves sumptuous food. MUST try! They have spacious and clean rooms. We stayed on the second floor which is a fan room. It can accomodate big groups. It's really cold during night time so no need for aircon rooms. We only paid 400Php/head with free breakfast. Look for ate marie or kuya angel: 09208362432- contact number

Big thanks to Melai and Kamy! We definitely had a wonderful stay in La Union. You are GREAT Hosts.

To cap it off: San Juan, La Union's beach is clean. The sand is greyish and fine. The surfing area is not rocky (the area for beginners). The water is not too deep even if you're meters away from the shore which makes it safe for beginner surfers and not so good swimmers. The locals were very accommodating and nice. It is just a short drive or Bus Ride from Manila and Pampanga and also a gate way to other provinces at the North.

More about La Union: More than Just a Surfing Spot

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thailand: A Date with Dumbo and Friends

One of the main reasons why we went to Ayutthaya was also to see elephants and experience an Elephant Ride. There are two spots where to find these gentle giants. You have an option to go at the City or at the Elephant Village. 

I failed to mention on my previous blog that aside from the Extreme Biking Adventure we had, we were also on an Extreme budget during our day trip. We only brought 1000 baht (w/c we borrowed from a friend) because we failed to have our money exchanged for the following reasons: we arrived late night and left very early in BKK. We tried to look for a money exchange shop in Ayutthaya but it was a Saturday so we had no option but to stick with the 500baht/each budget for the day. We still had high hopes to have that Elephant ride experience and that adventure of a lifetime.

And so the elephant spotting adventure begins...

Looking at the map, it was quite hard to figure out which way to go. There were so many spots to see and the place was really huge! Not to mention, very few signs were written in English, plus our poor direction skills. I would admit that there were a few times were i would just stare at the map, look at my bestfriend, and ask locals for directions but still clueless which way to go. haha! 
But, i am just so proud to say that after so many times we got lost in the roads of Ayutthaya, we were still able to locate and find what we were there for. A big achievement for a person like me who's very poor with directions. haha. 

Below are Paparazzi shots with my date, Dumbo and his friends...

A view of the tourists enjoying their Elephant Rides gave me that  "Ecstatic" feeling, Mindless of the aching legs, sweaty and haggard self.
 I confidently uttered the words: Whew! Finally we found it, one down. 

Up close with our Gentle Buddies, made me wish to have my turn already. All giddy! 
Look Out!!! Dumbo and Friends crossing!
 "I thought this is a Bike Lane? Hmmmmmmm Share a lane win a Friend?"haha.

We tried to have an up close photo with Elephants, but we were rejected a few times. We were not allowed to take pictures because they have a photo booth. But, we were very lucky to meet this friendly local and he let us take as many pictures as we can. "Kob Kuhn Ka!" He also gave us directions where to inquire for our ride. 
I was so scared to hold or be too close to the Elephant because i might freak it out. Funny how this shot went, but the best i can use. haha

We went to the Elephant Tent Area to check on the rates, but sadly an Elephant ride in the City costs 400 baht/each. We felt so much sadness after seeing the rates.  But then, the Elephant show quickly caught our eyes. We just agreed to check out the other spot (Elephant Village), with the hope that we'll get a cheaper rate. And just enjoy the free show for a while. I was in awe watching their tricks and those killer dance moves. hahaha.. 
"Lolo" (Grandpa) is also having lots of fun! haha.
Wow, this little Dumbo can definitely beat me on the Dance Floor! Amazeballs! How'd you do that my not-so-little Buddy?!?
It's all about making Love with the Camera!
Our Gentle Giants lalalalaloved the limelight! Say "Sawadee".

I must say, the show was really Great! Dumbo and his friends were surely doing a Great Job! Hands down really. BUT,  during the show i saw something that really pinched or i must say gave me a nudge in the heart. I felt so much PITY after seeing how these gentle giants were treated and forced just to entertain people. I thought the men were just holding sticks to cue them, but after carefully observing, the sticks had "Sharp Hook Metals". They were jabbed, poked, and hit by the sharp hook to do the dance and tricks.
 It was really heartbreaking and i must admit i got teary-eyed after seeing this.
Seriously, i think these Gentle Creatures should just be freed.
My desire to have that Elephant Ride changed after what i saw.
It was an Eye-Opener. 

Taking that Last Opportunity to have a close shot with these Gentle Creatures in the City. Until, we meet again. Hopefully someday, i could do something to help. 
We headed next at the Elephant Village, i had no more desire to have that ride but i was curious to check out what the place has to offer. 

Locating the Elephant Village was the hardest. We went on so many routes, asked so many people and got lost. Maybe we spent more than 45minutes figuring which direction to go. We were so tired and we almost gave up, since we were already near the train station and going home was an option. 

Our legs wanted to scream "Enough is enough". But as curious little souls, we still didn't give up. We bravely biked on the busy streets with 8 lanes and made some counter flow on the way back.Who would dare make a U-turn on more than 8 lanes using a Bike?!?

It gave us "HOPE" that we were so close to our destination. Hello "Elephant Village"!
Funny how "Ordinary" this scene is to the locals.
Seeing Elephants, walking almost Everywhere! 
Are we in France?!?
I loved the colors and architecture of the place.

The Floating Market in the Elephant Village. We failed to explore it because we arrived there around 5:00pm already. Closing time. 

The Elephant ride is around 700baht inclusive of visit to around 7 temples.The ride is longer compared to that in the City and there are much to see at the Elephant Village. 

And yes, you have great Inferencing Skills. We didn't get a chance to ride and since it was closing time we were just allowed to take photos with Dumbo. 

We were initially asked to pay 50baht/each for unlimited photos with them. I haggled and got it 40 baht. I think the usual rate is 50 baht/per 2 pictures with them, hmmmm not bad. The guide assisted me to get too close because i was a bit scared at first. 
I felt happy that i had a chance to hug Dumbo. Another check on my bucket list. 

I am also taking this opportunity to join the campaign to SAVE the Elephants.
Let us STOP Ivory Trade, Killing, and Abuse of these Creatures.
They deserve a HOME. Let us ACT Now before It's Too Late. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thailand: (Temple Biking) Extreme Biking Experience Around The Old Capital, Ayutthaya

"Because for a moment, traveling makes me forget about my present reality and succumbs me to a new world where my imagination becomes the reality." -gottabekara

If you are planning a trip to Bangkok, and have a day to spare plus you want to travel cheap. I suggest you plan a day trip to Ayutthaya. If you love culture, adventure and a not so crowded place, you might wanna consider this IT. 

Some Itsy Bitsy Facts: Ayutthaya is the Old Capital of Thailand, formerly called Siam. It was a powerful Kingdom before it was totally destroyed by the Burmese during the 18th Century. It is also considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Definitely a place with a glorious past that is very rich in culture.  

While exploring the place it felt like i was caught in a time warp. A feeling where past is intertwined with the present. An incredible story of Power, Greatness and Fall, the ruins say it all. 


1 US dollar = 30.6370 Thai baht

1 Thai baht = 1.3484 Philippine pesos

How to get there: There are a lot of transportation options how to get to Ayutthaya. You can ride a bus, taxi or a train. We opted for the latter, because of 3 reasons:  Experience a local train ride, it is the cheapest and fastest way. 

We arrived early at the Hualamphong Railway Station (Bangkok Railway Station, the Main) to avoid rush hour (7:am-10am). We rode a taxi from our hotel located in Pratunam going to the Train Station, it took us only 15mins (cost: 80baht/2pax). One way train ride costs 20 baht each (3rd class Seat). 
Below are more pictures and stories about our adventure:

Hualamphong Train Station

(Chug-uh-Chug-uh Choo-choo) Inside The Train Station
Inside the 3rd Class Train Ride. 
Many Locals and Tourist ride in the train. Not bad for a 1.5hrs travel. So many things to see during the entire ride. I suggest you sit near the window side so you can enjoy the scenery and also see the other "face" of Bangkok. 

Upon arrival, we (my bestfriend and I) decided to rent a bike to explore the city for some adventure and not to mention how cheap it is. It costs only 20baht each/ full day. 

A picture with Ms. Jintana, a local and owner of the shop. She can speak English (which is really helpful, because only few Thai people speak/understand English) and can give you some helpful pointers on your Temple Biking Adventure. Don't forget to ask for a Handy Dandy Map. 

Our Ride for the Day!
Biking is definitely LalalaLove. The cheapest way to tour around the place. Get ready for some Adrenaline Rush! haha

BUT Waaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiit....

Unexpected Events to Consider: 

1. If you decide to go biking, you must be ready to bike on these roads and say hello to your Road pals. You will encounter Killer trucks and buses, 8 lane roads and traffic counter flows on some routes. Thank God we survived them safely, knowing we had no gears. 

2. If you're coming from the train station, you need to cross a small river in order to get to the Historic Ayutthaya. You have an option to rent a bike near the Train Station or after crossing the river. We chose to rent a bike near the Train Station so we can still visit the Elephant Village before going back home, which is at the side of the Train Station. But the risk is, you have to carry the Bike with you when you ride the Small boat. The Bike is heavy and you have to take a few steps going down/up the boat area. Fare: 5baht person only; 6baht with bicycle. We were just lucky we encountered very friendly tourists and locals on our way to Ayutthaya and back home. 

That "Princess Feeling", away from Home. The Locals were too nice, or must i say Everyone! Very Thankful, yet another priceless moment. 
"Kob Kuhn Ka" (Thank you, you can also add "-Ka" used by women "-Krub" used by men, to give respect.) 

So if you think you can handle the challenge, welcome to my World...

Thai Architecture: Old Houses and Quarters
Some scenes you'll see along the way.

Temples, temples, temples everywhere...
Know the Rules: Respect!

Wat Mahathat Temple (Temple of Great Relic): A place where you can see the ruins of the "Beheaded Buddhas" and "Buddha Head in A Tree". It is located at the heart of the City. 

Headless Buddhas

Buddha Head in a Tree.

Wat Na Phramen: It is said to be the only temple left intact during attack of the Burmese in Ayutthaya. 

Phra Chedi Suriyothai: It is a memorial and a tribute to Thailand's Heroine (former Queen). It is situated near the river banks, opposite side of the Wat Na Phramen.
Wat Thammikarat: A Metal Buddha Head on a Lotus Flower

This temple really caught my attention and melted my heart. It is a "Bridal Home" turned into Temple. According to the legend, a father built this for his daughter after she eloped against his will. He planned on giving this to her and with the hope that she'll go home. The father waited but his daughter never came back and it was then converted to a Temple. 

"Say a little prayer, whatever your heart desires"
Offerings: Yellow flowers and Incense sticks (top); 
Lotus flower (bottom)

Overall Costs: 780 Baht/2 pax 
(Inclusive of fares BKK-Ayutthaya 2-way; Bike Rentals, Food; Entrance fees)

This was my second Biking Experience away from Home, but it felt like a "FIRST" again. Yet another priceless memory to cherish and linger on. A new story, a new adventure, a new achievement, a new discovery about self. We can never be too wise, every day is a learning experience. Every adventure is a way to make self a better person. A different culture, a different lesson, a different experience, and a different view on life. I am thankful, that everyday I am given enough courage to overcome the fear inside me, which gives me more room for Self Discovery. 

Another Tiring but all Worth It Extreme Experience. It's definitely a Wrap! Looking forward for moooore!  

I travel not for luxury, I travel for Self Discovery. 
Traveling need not be Grand, Because it's the Simple Things that Matter. 
Travel Young, Feed and Open your Mind to Endless Possibilities, Satisfy your Curious Soul. You'll never know what life has to offer... 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Iloilo: Knock, knock, knockin on Heaven's Door

Iloilo has been my second home. It is a place where i must admit, Gluttony is also unstoppable. Aside from their sumptuous dish, fresh seafoods, i couldn't deny how pocket-friendly their rates are. Which will make you feel a little less guilty about being a glutton. 

Aside from foodtrips, coffee talks and night life i haven't explored Iloilo that much yet and rarely enjoyed the sight of it during day. It has always been my routine to just spend a day or day and half at this place and then head straight to Boracay. But this time, i tried to see Iloilo in a different perspective and explore it a little by day, which was still not enough because of a full schedule. 

I tried to visit some of their famous and Baroque churches. But due to limited time, i was only able to see 2 but nonetheless satisfied my curiosity. I was lucky to have a good friend drive me around and tour me in the area.

First stop was Miag-ao Church, which took us 45minutes from Jaro, Iloilo City . Unfortunately, the Church was closed and only able to admire the exterior at first. But being a curious kid, i insisted to go and see the inside. Thankfully, I was able to peep and said my wish and little prayer. My mom always tell me to say 3 wishes everytime i visit a new church, and so i did.

We also passed by another church on our way back to the city. The Guimbal Church, yet another one of the oldest churches in the country. The structure of the churches were really magnificent. It felt like a throwback from the Spanish times. 

 Guimbal Church 

There are so much more to see in this place and yes, i have my list ready with me. Next stop: revisit places, ancestral houses and restos, check out museums, explore beaches, and go on hiking trips.