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Bewitching Siquijor

Blog update (13th August 2017): Regarding my featured image of the starfish (sea star) for this blog entry, I just very recently realized that starfish shouldn’t be taken out of the water even for a short period of time. I have always known that they would die if left out of the water for a long time. That’s why I always pick them up when I see them on the shore to put them back in the water. But I never knew before that even a few seconds could be harmful. So, please, DO NOT follow my ignorant and poor example of getting the starfish out of the water (even for just a few seconds) just to take a better picture of it. Please spread the word…

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My original plan was to go to Siargao as a side trip on the way to Manila. But then, it was impossible to find a convenient connecting flight from Manila to Siargao, coming from Singapore. And so I ended up going to Siquijor instead… which is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it was a lucky coincidence because on the week of my trip, there was a big earthquake that hit the province of Surigao, where Siargao is located.

To some extent, I do believe in getting jinxed from time to time. Like the time I went to Boracay for my birthday… I got very bad, almost stormy weather in October. It is very unusual for me to encounter such gloomy weather in my travels coz I generally consider myself lucky weather-wise. It got me thinking that it might be due to the fact that I told everybody about my plans for this trip. And somehow, one (or more) of the people who knew about this travel plans jinxed it. Hence, the bad weather. Sadly, there is a bit more truth to that quote, “Don’t tell people your plans, show them.” than we care to admit. And true enough, Since I told practically NObody about my travel plans to Siquijor, I had nothing but beautiful weather despite rainy weather forecast the whole time I was in the island.

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I’ve also seen this in Quiapo a very long time ago… I never need to buy them coz I can make my own (insert evil witchy laugh here)… my ancestors aren’t from Pangasinan for nothing.

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I bought a smaller version of this voodoo doll in keychains… my husband and our helper are horrified by them. My daughter and I, on the other hand, find them adorable… why?

Speaking of jinxes and negative stuff… Siquijor has this reputation in the Philippines for witchcraft and aswang… I do not really know how to say aswang in English. But in Philippine folklore, aswang is a creature, sort of like a monster that devours people for magical powers (I think). I am quite surprised that this reputation manages to survive in this modern time and age. Although I believe in negative energies, or negative people having an effect on others, I do not believe that eating people will give you evil magical powers… you’ll just be a regular cannibal at best.

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This looks like fun… unfortunately, I didn’t know I would be visiting this site so I wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for this.

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Old churches are beautiful

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One of the most beautiful dilapidated old churches I’ve seen in the PI

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I love the feel of this church’s wooden floor boards under my feet… reminds me so much of my Lola’s ancestral house.

Anyway, I chose to go to Siquijor because I saw all these beautiful images all over the web — the beautiful white sand beaches, great snorkeling (and diving) sites, water falls, etc. And also, what made it especially attractive is that it is not that touristy yet. After seeing Boracay, I just don’t have the tolerance anymore for overcrowded beaches swarming with irresponsible tourists.

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Cool drinks, cool vibe… my friend and I had the most awesome cozy corner in the place!

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Local Reggae band at Baha Bar

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These people in portraits stare at you while you do your thing in the toilet (Baha Bar)

What surprised me about Siquijor and made me glad I visited is that it made me realize all over again how people in the Philippines, especially in remote provinces like this in the South are always so generous, kind, helpful and cheerful. Somehow, I have forgotten about that. It’s some of the things that you miss when you live outside the Philippines for a long time.

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Au revoir, Siquijor!

The truth is, I actually hesitated a lot to post about Siquijor because I somehow don’t really want it to get too famous and become just another Boracay. But then, there’s really no stopping people from discovering it. I can only hope that the local government in Siquijor will do less evil than the ones in Boracay.

It is interesting to note that Siquijor was once called “Fire Island” because it was teeming with fireflies back in the day. The old people in my province used to say that fireflies signal the presence of something enchanted… Siquijor must’ve been even more enchanting and bewitching in the olden days…

Thanks for dropping by and have a good weekend! 🙂

Hotel: Coco Grove Beach Resort (Rating: 4 out of 5… beautiful beach resort with friendly staff, good value for money!)

Bar/Restaurant: Baha Bar (Rating: 5 out of 5… excellent service, love  the drinks and food)

Sites of interest in the pictures: Lazi Church, Cambugahay Falls

Qunci Villas, Lombok, Indonesia

First off, I want to greet everyone a very Merry Christmas! I had some wonderful time with family last night. Speaking of family, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? This year, my whole family will be spending time all together at our place during the holidays. They will be coming from abroad, so I wouldn’t be doing some traveling during Christmas like I usually do. But that does not keep me from reminiscing about some of my wonderful Christmas Holiday trips.

Here is one from 2013 in Qunci Villas, Lombok. And if you’re ever looking for a place to spend your Christmas Holiday next year, I would highly recommend it. Here are some of my photos taken during our trip:

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The beautiful open-air bathroom — it’s always nice to take a shower under the canopy of the trees or the stars at night.

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One of the two swimming pools at the resort

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View from the balcony of one of the guestrooms

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That’s Bali in the horizon

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Lovely decors and accents

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Off to some island-hopping

The year 2013 was the first year of our return to the tropics, having lived in France for two years before that, so I had been thirsting to see the gorgeous tropical beaches that I have grown to be even more fond of during my stay in the temperate zone of Southern France. Lombok was the perfect place. It’s a quick plane ride from Singapore and it had this gorgeous French-owned resort called Qunci Villas.

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Dinner in our verandah

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Lunch!

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Some Christmas goodies that greeted us first thing in the morning on Christmas Day

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Cocktails with a view

It was my first time I spent Christmas outside of my country of residence. I found it very refreshing and very relaxing. Qunci Villas is a very relaxing place — a beautifully-designed resort with interesting art works scattered all over the villas and inside the guest rooms. It has two big swimming pools, both salt-chlorinated, which I prefer. There are two restaurants and a bar that we liked to frequent during sunset. The resort conveniently faces the beach and the sunset, with a view of the island of Bali in the not-so-distant horizon.

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Refreshment before the spa

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Organic facial ingredients

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After the facial

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Frangipani

To complete your plans of rest and relaxation, they also have a spa. I tried the full body massage and the facial. I totally enjoyed both and highly recommend going to their spa.

Thanks for reading and again, have a very Merry Christmas! 🙂

Salvador Dali’s Cadaqués and Figueres, Spain

Some of the very first places I’ve visited while I was living in France were Cadaqués and Figueres (Catalan word for “fig trees”). These places piqued my interest because of my fascination with Salvador Dali.

In the beautiful Spanish region of Catalonia sits Salvador Dali’s home province of Girona where you will find these towns that have kept treasured memorabilia and masterpieces of the artist. Luckily, it was only three hours’ drive from Toulouse.

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Crossing the Pyrenées on the way to Girona, Spain from Toulouse, France

Our first stop was Cadaqués. On the way there, we had to go around this hilly area covered with endless rows of olive tree plantations with the backdrop of the gorgeous Mediterranean sea. It was so beautiful! I had never seen anything quite like it. I have so much respect for olive trees, being difficult to cultivate and how they can withstand the test of time. It’s one of the many things in the Mediterannean countries that I love so much.

Along the stretch of Cadaques‘ coast, you will find Salvador Dali‘s house at Portlligat, which has actually been turned into a museum. It looked very bright and beautiful from the outside. But we’ve read some information that it is not really very interesting on the inside. We thought we’d just save our money for the Figueres Museum so we just walked around the area instead of going in.

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Salvador Dali’s house in Portlligat, Cadaqués, Spain

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The grounds of Salvador Dali’s house, facing the sea

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Souvenir shop

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Ancient wall clock

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One of the beautiful stone houses in the area

Before heading straight to the Dali Theater and Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali) in Figueres, we first stopped by a beach area lined with seafood restaurants. The houses facing the beach give a bright and summery feel despite the cloudy autumn weather. We had a good seafood lunch in one of the restaurants and then wandered a bit into the beach where we found a statue of Salvador Dali himself.

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Salvador Dali’s statue

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Beautiful house amid the restaurants

From the outside, the Teatre-Museu Dali looks very imposing. The museum was once a theater where Dali’s first art works were exhibited. It was burned during the Spanish Civil War and was later on rebuilt as the Dali Museum that it is now.

They were offering discounted entrance fees to students at the time. Luckily, I was a student at Alliance Française de Toulouse at the time. I showed them my student ID and it worked!

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Dali’s signature

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The steps leading to the main entrance of The Dali Museum… this statue called “Homage to Newton” is the same one that is displayed at UOB Plaza in Singapore, minus the pendulum.

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An air well inside the museum, his remains are buried beneath the grounds here… if I remember correctly

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One of the huge surrealist art works inside the museum… I was actually very much feeling this painting during my visit because I was pregnant at the time.

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I love the bricked walls, the high ceileing and of course the weird art works… especially the ones dedicated to his wife, Gala

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Children on a field trip

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You can view the kids from this mirror, and they look like they are part of the art installation

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Ceiling mural

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Now this is what I call a “shitty opening”… literally!

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Entrance to the Jewelry Museum

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My favorite piece inside the Jewelry Museum — a golden heart with a crown and a beating heart in the middle

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The Teatre-Museu Dali from the outside with the funny-looking gigantic eggs

The museum does not only house Dali’s quirky art works, it also serves as his final resting place. There is also a small Jewelry Museum containing jewelry art pieces from the artist himself. There was this unforgettable heart sculpture covered with gold. On top of it sits a crown and on in the inside is a small bejewelled beating heart.

We could’ve continued to the Púbol Castle, Dali’s famous gift to his wife Gala, which has also been turned into a museum, but we only had one day and we had to drive back to Toulouse.

Thanks for revisting Dali’s home town with me. Have a good weekend! 🙂

New Zealand

Last year for Christmas, our family, together with my in-laws decided to spend the holidays in New Zealand. We originally wanted to go to Sri Lanka but were disappointed to find that as early as July, all the good hotels were already fully booked. While searching for  a new destination, the thought of New Zealand came to mind because I had never been there and it always seemed like an interesting place full of adventures. Luckily enough, we found out that there were still a lot of availability on flights and hotels at the time of our search and so we decided to immediately go for it. And we were not disappointed. It was one of the best trips and one of the best places I have visited.

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Auckland from the ferry boat on the way to Waiheke Island

Our first stop was Auckland. We arrived mid-day from our very long and tiring flight. Auckland was bright and summery in December but it gets quite chilly at night. We got a hotel close to Victoria Street and the harbour. It was Boxing Day when we arrived and all the shops were on sale. It’s a very pleasant city for walking. There were very nice restaurants along the harbour where we sat for apéro and had dinner. We also had our New Year’s Eve dinner at a very nice and modern restaurant called Matterhorn.

The next day we took a boat trip to Waiheke, the closest island from the city. We originally wanted to go farther out but we considered how it would be too tiring for my small daughter. Waiheke is a lovely island with beautiful beaches and huge vineyards. We took a half-day bus trip with a tour guide that told us about the history of the island and also gave us tips about which vineyard restaurant to go for lunch.

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The view of Palm Beach in Waiheke

After the bus tour, we stopped by a couple of beaches. It’s too bad the waters were not warm enough for me to swim. We found a nice vineyard restaurant where we had a semi-lunch. Most of the vineyard restaurants were fully booked but we found one that served apéro at their cozy wine-tasting garden area, filled with sweet-smelling herbs.

The next day, we went on a road trip to Rotorua. Before going straight to the hotel, we took a side-trip to Hobbiton in Mata-Mata. The place was really nice, huge and interesting especially for the kids. But I find that there were too many people and that it was very hot to walk around early in the afternoon. Good thing they offer free refreshments at the end of the trip.

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This is the very first hobbit house that greets you upon entering Hobbiton

The director of the movie, Peter Jackson is actually a native of New Zealand. The driver of the bus fom the i-Site and the tour guide at Hobbiton offered lots of interesting trivia about the movie. As we neared the place, there were parts of the area where it looked a bit like Tuscany. I thought at first I would have difficulty understanding the locals because of their accent, but surprisingly, I didn’t.

We stayed for a few days in Rotorua at a motel close to the city center. There was an interesting park called Kuirau Hot Pools nearby, where you can soak your feet in some shallow baths and cross a wooden bridge across a giant pool of smouldering hot water. It was amazing!  For a cooler and more relaxing walk, we spent one afternoon visiting a forest filled with tall sequoia trees and giant ferns. You can either go for a short leisurely walk or camp for several days.

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The Champagne Pool at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

About an hour’s drive from the center you arrive at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. Make sure to get there early as the tiny road that deviates from the highway is really narrow and causes jams due to people going in and out to see the geyser. If you want my opinion, you can totally skip the geyser, just head directly to the park. It is advisable to carry a sunhat, put on some sunblock and carry some water with you as there is not much shade on the trails. The hot pools were a sight to behold, with such magnificent colors. Although, you will have to forget about the putrid smell of sulphur, if you want to enjoy the trip.

New Zealand for Christmas is not a bad idea at all, especially if you don’t mind having an out-of-the-usual, warm holiday season instead of the cliché-ish cold. It is very suitable for adventure trips and surprisingly enough, it is also family-friendly. What’s even more special about the yuletide season in New Zealand is that you get to experience the new year way ahead of most everyone in the planet! What a treat! 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend! 🙂

London, Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

The London Experience was definitely a first of many firsts in my traveling history. Among these firsts was the first time ever for me to step in Europe. Everything around me was such a visual treat! That’s why I decided the best way for me to show you around London and a bit of its countryside is by way of my humble pictures. Scroll down for the London of Summer 2008…

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On the way to the hotel, I passed by this small Filipino grocery.

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The hotel was situated close to a line of brown-bricked houses/apartments with lovely flowers outside the windows

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London underground directory — most of the stations were closed down and needed fixing almost every day I was there… most old European city underground trains are like this.

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I was fascinated about how old the London Underground is and at the same time dismayed about its dilapidated, decaying and neglected state.

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Hyde Park

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Peter Pan’s statue at Hyde Park

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Changing of the Guard

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Entertainment at Trafalgar Square

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I remember reading A Study in Scarlet right before visiting London

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Souvenir items

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The busy area close to the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey

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The Roman Baths

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Jane Austen’s apartment

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Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest spire among all cathedrals in the UK

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It also has one of the original copies of the Magna Carta

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I love these gothic arches

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Ceiling art

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The oldest working clock in the world from 1386 AD

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It was quite a long trip from London to go to the Stonehenge. And when I got there, I wasn’t all that fascinated. I didn’t bother to go inside the fence. I was more interested in the surrounding hills which had some mounds for ancient tombs.

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One of the ancient tombs surrounding Stone Henge

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England’s pretty white rose

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This is one of the oldest pubs in London which was frequented by some of the famous writers (including Charles Dickens) back in the day. I had some fish and chips and beer inside.

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Ancient looking clock at Fleet Street

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Tower Bridge

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The dungeons with the Gherkin in the background

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The modern bridge to Tate Modern

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At the British Museum

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Drinks at The Hung, Drawn and Quartered pub — drinks to keep you warm from the cold rain

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Curious shop

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Oldest book shop in town

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Watching Les Miz for the first time!

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At Kings Cross on the way back to the airport

Some of the special things that I’ve enjoyed and might not have been so apparent in the pics: the friendly Filipino strangers at the airport, the very nice cabbie who didn’t take the fare because he took the wrong route on the way to the hotel, the people in the streets mistaking me for a teenager (I was 29 years old) but nobody bothered to ask for my ID in the pubs, how it was raining a little bit every day, the fresh flowers everywhere, the lovely parks, the museum with the Seurat painting, all the ten pubs that I’ve visited to make me appreciate beer for the first time, etc.

I would someday love to go back to London, and maybe visit other areas in the UK as well. But for now, I’m quite content looking back at the memories of my travel through my blogs and pictures.

Thanks for dropping by!

Cheers, and have a good weekend!

Rocamadour, France

During the time I was living in France, I had some time to explore the interesting places around the region of the Pyrénées. This is the gorgeous ice-capped mountain range that I could see clearly during the autumn months from the lovely balcony of our apartment in Toulouse. It separates the south of France from the north-east of Spain, which is what is known as Catalunya. I was living with my husband and newborn daughter in the capital of the region of Midi-Pyrénées, which is the old city of Toulouse, also known as La ville rose. This appellation came from the rich red color of the bricks of most houses in this beautiful city, full of history and culture and great food, with very warm and friendly people.

Recently, though, they are renaming and combining certain regions around the Pyrénées. These combined regions are now known as Occitanie. In this region, you will find Rocamadour, an ancient village nestled in a gorge above the Dordogne river, with houses precariously jutting right out of the rocks and cliffs.

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Pilgrims are quite numerous in this place, mostly elderly people. It’s quite convenient for them because there are elevators, although you need to pay to use them. There is also a grotto, which could be interesting for some, but the guided tour is only done in French. What interested me most was climbing on top of the tower, which offers a breath-taking birds-eye view of the place. And also the spectacular view at the tourist information area — the picture that is found at the topmost of this page.

This was probably one of the best places I have ever visited in this region. You get the feeling of being transported back in time, arriving at this place. The Game of Thrones vibe is thick in the air. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to visit such an amazing place.

Thanks for dropping by and have a good weekend! 🙂

Birthday at Boracay Shangri-La Resort

For the longest time, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to take a dip once again in the beautiful, warm waters of the Philippines. And what perfect excuse is there to spoil myself (and my family + a close friend who tagged along) at a nice luxury resort than on the weekend of my birthday.

Sand, sea, sky in one of the best white sand beaches this world has to offer — the perfect gift for my birthday. You will notice that I am posting a lot of pictures of myself for the first time. I hope you will bear with me because it’s my birthday. The resort really offers perfectly blissful opportunities for glorious photo-ops. This is also the first time I’m posting pictures that were all taken via iPhone camera and not DSLR. I wanted to travel light and enjoy my time, so I decided to do away with the hassle of carrying a big camera and heavy lenses. 🙂

I was a little bit sad, though, to find how polluted the once glorious and pristine white beach of Boracay has become. Sadly, a lot of people really have no respect for the environment. The truth is, I have been warned about this by a lot of friends. This is the reason why I chose to stay at a resort with its own private beach areas.

I really do miss the Boracay of old — the clear, alga-free waters of white beach, the authentic eateries and small shops, the quiet during the non-peak season. Boracay Island actually once belonged to the clan of Lola Heide — the Tirol‘s. She was the landlady of my dormitory back in Manila. I saw pictures of Boracay from way back in the 60’s. It was gorgeous. And now, it’s all just in the pictures. Hopefully, it will get rehabilitated someday soon. But for now, let us try to do our small part by not being part of the problem.

About the Shangri-La Resort

First of all, it was beyond gorgeous! If you stayed there and then tried to get out to see the rest of Boracay, everything else just pales in comparison. During this typhoon-infested time of the year, there are actually more staff/workers around the 12-hectare vicinity of the resort… which is just perfect!.. but you have to be lucky to not be inconvenienced by typhoons during your stay. We had a few, short drizzles and cloudy skies, but we managed to have a bit of the sun too. It was still pleasant weather considering it was October.

Our room had a gorgeous view of the beach. We had a verandah with day beds. It was kept very clean all the time. The service was really good.

The drinks at Solana Bar, together with the staff and the band were all superb. And they were all very patient with my little daughter. Same with Sirena Restaurant where I had my birthday dinner. Although, I would say the food was a bit overpriced. But then you have the gorgeous view of the sea, the excellent service and only the singing band to distract you from the lull of sea breeze and the crashing of the waves on the shore.

They also have activities for the kids. But we weren’t able to check them out because it was such a short stay.

Everything was impeccable and perfect except for a few minor mishaps. I would give it an almost excellent rating — 4.95 out of 5 stars, I would say. Definitely worth the money.

Thank you all for reading and have a gorgeous week! 🙂

Iceland – the Land of Fire and Ice

To date, I would say that Iceland is the best place I have ever visited in all my traveling life. From that moment in the plane where we were greeted with the fiercest, most fiery sunset at midnight, I knew instantly that I would be treated to some of the most magnificent, out-of-this-world landscapes that I will ever see in my life.

We went from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon in the East to Borgarnes in the West to Akureyri in the North and then finally back to Reykjavik on self-drive (without GPS). I have to admit that all the places of interest are a little bit too far away from each other. But getting to your destinations is definitely not boring because of the variety of landscapes that Iceland has to offer.

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Skogafoss

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Fjadrarglufur

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An evil bunny photo bomber behind me

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These purple flowers are everywhere

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Reynisfjara rocks

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Ensku Husin, Our charming hotel in Borgarnes

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Deildatunghuver hot spring in Reykholtsdalur

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Godafoss

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Seafood is really good and fresh in Iceland

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The sunset at midnight

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View from the breakfast room of Ensku Husin

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Strikid Restaurant in Akureyri

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Myvatn, the Blue Lagoon of the North

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Interesting landscape colors

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Crater of an extinct volcano

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Wreaking havoc at the Hallgrimskirkja

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The Hallgrimskirkja

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View of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja

We saw countless waterfalls, drove by the coast, up and around hills, hiked on mini-craters on a huge lake, soaked in a hot spring and felt very welcomed by the friendly locals.

On our last full day in Reykjavik, my Icelandic friend gave us a tour of the city and had dinner at a very nice and famous restaurant. It was definitely one of my most memorable trips, and a place worth revisiting.

For a more detailed retelling of my Iceland trip, head over to riosebastian.com.

Thanks for dropping by and have a good weekend! 🙂

Old Town and Around Praha

So many people have been telling me how beautiful Prague is, and how it is a must-visit place when you are in Europe. As for me, I have always been interested to visit the place because of its historical connection to Jose Rizal, my country’s beloved national hero. But of course, Praha has so much more to offer.

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Where all the interesting and touristy places are

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The astronomical clocks

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View from atop one of the interesting towers around Old Town

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Tourist car

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This is how most of the postcards from Prague look like

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Under the famous bridge

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Halu-halo time at a Filipino bar

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Pink goth at the Vysehrad

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The weekend market

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Perfect swim weather

True enough, it was really a fascinating place with interesting culture and history. But like most beautiful places, it was a bit too touristy. To go to Charles Bridge and have a nice picture without being stampeded on by the crowd, I had to wake up at 6AM. Good thing our hotel was conveniently a 5-minute walk from there.

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Dancing House by Frank Gehry

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Kafka was born in Prague

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Cozy nook for apéro… too bad I forgot the name of the place

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City of black and gold

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Apéro time

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Funny sign

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Flying buttresses and all at Prague Castle‘s St. Vitus Church

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Marveling at the dreamy paintings of Alfons Mucha

Prague is a city that is good for walking. I guess this is why they have a lot of interesting walking tours that you can avail of. We walked around the Prague Castle at sunset with a guy doing small group tours. They call themselves The Naked Tour Guide. It was interesting to know about the history of the castle, how some parts of St Vitus Church are not exactly authentic goth and were built by atheists, the crazy kings, etc. We also visited the less touristy castle, the Vysehrad and had lunch at the weekend market by the Vltava river,  walked around the park with the nice view of the city and Charles Bridge, and on our last day when it was raining in the morning, I got introduced to the dreamy art works of Alfons Mucha in huge canvases at the museum.

I was a bit disappointed and not so crazy about the local food. They seem to like bland-tasting huge chunks of meat served with goulash. I’m not a big fan of it. We were supposed to try a walking food trip (Taste of Prague) but then the organizers had a tragic family issue at the time of our trip and so it was cancelled. They were nice enough to send us really good tips and information on which places to visit for food, shopping and other places of interest… in fact, I have some of them to share below, for those interested to have a mini food trip in Prague:

Hotel Three Storks – 4.5 out of 5

This is a five-star hotel with a very central location. It’s a few minutes’ walk to Prague Castle and Charles Bridge. Despite being central, it was surprisingly quiet. I was very much in-love with our huge room and the lovely carved beams on the old ceiling. They always kept the room clean, and the free Wifi reliably fast. The food selection at the breakfast buffet was good enough for me. And I love that I always get to have breakfast in front of a knight’s armour every morning. 🙂 The only thing that bothered me a bit was the weird and strange waiter who was serving us when we once had dinner at their restaurant. The dinner menu was a bit overpriced for what it was.

Vinograf Senovážné – 4.5 out of 5

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Excellent service, very good selection of local and international wines. I was not very fond of the cheeses, though. It was a nice, cozy and quiet place for apéro.

La Bottega Bistroteka – 5 out of 5

Excellent Italian lunch with friendly service. Good ambience, good food. A bit pricey, though.

Bella Vida Café – 5 out of 5

Excellent place to have an apéro or dinner, located at the end of a park and right next to the Vltava River, with interesting view of the city and Charles Bridge. Best to come during sunset. Some of the cruising boats with live music would stop right next to it. The staff were very nice and friendly.

Malostransky Hostinec – 4.5 out of 5

 

For a restaurant in close proximity to the entrance to Prague Castle, they have a reasonably priced menu. Food was very good. The restaurant was very old and charming and huge… but we preferred to eat al fresco, as usual. It was right next to an old church, facing a quiet square. It’s nice to people watch. Service was nice and friendly, but we found the waiter a bit too pushy with the tip.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely (long, for those in Singapore) weekend! 🙂

Jose Rizal Travels: Litoměřice

For those who do not know, Jose Rizal is one of the most important historical figures in the country where I was born (The Philippines). I have started to become a great fan of his life back in my university days when we had this subject, Rizal’s Life and Works. He led a very interesting and illustrious life during the latter part of the Spanish Occupation (1565 – 1898). He was a medical doctor, an artist (he made sculptures), a writer (his works ignited the revolution against Spain), spoke several languages (Filipino, Spanish, French, German, probably even Czech) and was an indefatigable traveller.

When I was living in France back in 2011, I started a project and decided to visit all the places that Jose Rizal visited. I have been to Madrid, Paris and Biarritz. To continue this tradition this year, I decided to visit the small town of Litoměřice, an hours’ drive outside of Prague. This is where Jose Rizal lived in the 1880’s.

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The town center

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Hotel Krebs (not a hotel anymore), where Jose Rizal stayed

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Salva Guarda (Black Eagle) Hotel – they have a bust of Jose Rizal

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Bust of Jose Rizal in Salva Guarda Hotel

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Just posing for a souvenir snap

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Jose Rizal Park

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Bust at Jose Rizal Park

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Taking in the nice view at Jose Rizal Park

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Walking around the park

 

Litoměřice is a very small town. Most of the sites of interest are around the town square which is called, “Peace Center”. From there, you can park your car and then head straightaway to the Tourist Information Center. You can get a map of the town there and ask them how to reach the places that you would like to visit. Also, they offer visitors to go on top of their tower for a 360-degree view of the whole town. The viewing tower is 300 years old. You have to climb a series of wooden, rickety stairs to reach it. The viewing deck is a tiny cupola made of wood, which sways with the wind. It was a bit scary.

A few meters away from the Tourist Information Center, you will find the Salva Guarda Hotel, where they have Jose Rizal’s bust at the entrance. Behind the hotel, there is a park dedicated to Jose Rizal. It’s a small park with a few benches where you can have a sit and enjoy the view. I can easily imagine Rizal sitting on one of the benches and contemplating life. It’s difficult to describe this feeling of connection that I have with him that just overwhelms me every time I visit a place that once held a special meaning to him.

I find it funny, though, that I always seem to prefer to be a fan of the dead than the living. Probably because they have already led a perfect life and can do no mistake anymore. As in Rizal’s case, he died at the very young age of 35. If he was still living today, what would he be saying on Twitter? What would he be posting on Instagram, or Facebook?.. I doubt I would still be a fan as he seems to be the type who would flood your feed with depressing political posts and hackneyed philosophical quotes, and has a tendency to become histrionic, though I’d probably fall in-love with his Instagram photos. But he is dead and there was no Twitter back in his days… fortunately for him.

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Beautiful baroque church turned into an art gallery

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You can wander up and around the whole church to your heart’s content

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And so I took the opportunity to take pictures in corners where visitors are not usually allowed in ancient churches

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The tourism center, with a cupola where you can climb up to have a view of the town

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Up at the viewing area of the Tourist Information Center

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Along this street was where Blumentritt’s house was located. Unfortunately, it does not exist anymore.

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A bit tricky to go in and out of the viewing tower

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Lunch

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A book on Jose Rizal and his relationship to the small town

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Ferdinand Blumentritt’s tomb

 

We walked around the small town all throughout the day. We had a nice lunch at one of the restaurants in the square (Radnicni sklipek). I had chicken served on top of some grain that looked like quinoa. It was quite good. And the restaurant was lovely. It rained a little bit after lunch, so we decided to buy an umbrella at a store across the restaurant. Later we realized that this was the hotel (Hotel Krebs) where Jose Rizal stayed.

We walked around the town a little bit more and found a Baroque church that has been abandoned and turned into an art gallery. I had a great time taking pictures to my heart’s content inside. I have never been able to wander up and around so freely inside an ancient European church before. I even managed to climb up on the pulpit! It was awesome.

We also tried to find Blumetritt’s house, but it does not exist anymore. We just decided to visit his tomb in the cemetery. It was very easy to find because there is a map at the cemetery’s gate. He is listed as no.1 among the most important people buried there.

Visit my Youtube Channel for more of my Litoměřice trip. Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend.