Category Archives: travel

Bangkok: first and short

So I did it. I was able to come back in one piece. It was my first time leaving the country so it was kinda of a big deal. Our destination: the “City of Deity”, the capital of Thailand, Bangkok. It was a very short but I have to say well-planned and well-executed, jam-packed two-day trip (kudos to us!). Initially I thought I booked it for four days. Rookie that I am, I realized later that the we leave the Philippines on 9 o’clock in the evening of March 5 and come back 12 in the morning of March 2008. So all we have is 2 days. Tricky, tricky. Nonetheless, setback is never a reason not to have fun.

DSC07185We landed around 11 in the evening at Bangkok airport. It’s nothing like when I saw Baguio for the first time. You know, that weird feeling you have when you are in a foreign land (though, technically Baguio is not a foreign land but you get my point). Bangkok strangely feels the same. The place somehow looks the same. People look the same (don’t get me started on how many times we were mistaken as local people). I had a mental picture that Bangkok immigration would somehow find problem on my passport and interrogate me and our entire trip will end to an episode of ‘Border Security’. But no, everything went smoothly. Later, I just found ourselves exchanging some dollars for Baht, that’s when I realized “I’m in Bangkok”!

We head straight to our hotel, called CentrePoint Silom. CentrePoint is a chain oDSC07196f hotel in Bangkok. Its a nice and decent hotel. Price is very reasonable. For $60/day, you’ll have a room for two with nice view, amenities and breakfast. I know it’s silly that UI have to mention this, but when traveling always get the one with breakfast included, it saves a lot of hassle plus most breakfast are buffet, yeah! After breakfast, we had our first item in our itinerary (shameless plug: itinerary courtesy of Tripit, you have no idea how much I love this tool): temples. From our place, there are several ways to get into the temples, but the best way is through ferry. Instead of taking a regular ferry, we rented a private one for 1600 Baht.  It was a well-spent money. The ferry toured us in Chao Phraya river and took us to one of Bangkok’s floating market. The ferry trip was a lot of fun. There are so many sights to see. It’s amazing how Bangkok was able to convert the river as one of it’s public means of transportation.

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The floating market can be reached through narrow canals branching out from Chao Phraya river. It’s a  30-minute ride from the dock. Here, food variety is insane. There are gazillion of foods around here. Most of them looks really interesting. Eating them can be a different case (maybe because I’m not that into exotic foods). Food here are very cheap but also mostly around Bangkok so it’s not really big deal. After that we went to see the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which sits right next to each other. These two are testaments on how amazing Thailand’s culture is. The level of detail for every temple, wall and monument is  unbelievable. We also visited the Royal temple and met one of the locals. He was very hospitable and generous enough to give us some backgrounder on Thailand’s history. We weren’t able to finish the temples on day 1 because they are closed for King’s visit. So we have to go back the next day. Instead, we went prowling the street of Bangkok. Man, we’re glad that we did. It was fun just walking on the streets, riding the tuktuk, eating street foods and just immersing on the place. For the dinner, I did some research on where would a good place for fine dining. Here’s what I found: Spring/Summer. A very  modern restaurant that serves some of Thai’s best dishes. The food there was amazing. The service was also great. By the way, this place is very hard to find. Even on some of the blogs I read, they had a hard time finding the place. So I suggest take your map with you and learn a few direction-related Thai language. Don’t worry, it’s totally worth it.

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The next day, we picked up where we left off, the remaining temples: Wat Arum and Wat Pho. Wat Arun can be reached by crossing to the other side of the river on That Tien (last ferry station). It will cost you 3 Baht for the ferry and 35 Baht for the entrance on the temple. The temple’s architecture is just mind-numbing. The level of detail and attention put to this is unequivocal. You just have to see it for yourself. Pictures and words just won’t do justice in describing them. The climax is climbing the temple itself which can be pretty intimidating. I’m not kidding when I say that it’s an 80-degree climb! But it’s part of the experience so we have no choice but to climb. The last temple that we visited is Wat Pho. There’s an entrance fee of 50 Baht. The main attraction here is the Reclining Buddha, a huge, 46 meters long Buddha. Our last itinerary is, of course, shopping and where better to do it in Bangkok than in Chatuchak market place. It’s the Divisoria of Bangkok. You can buy virtually anything here at a cheap price. Well, maybe. Compared to Divisoria, it didn’t sound that cheap to me. But it was close enough that we were able to get some stuff for both of us.

On our last night, we felt that we’re done eating Thai food and we need some familiar flavor for our tongues. Walking a few blocks from our hotel, we found an Irish pubs that serves steaks and San Mig light. Oh what a relief! A perfect way to end our first and short escape. Next, Saigon!

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Filed under Bangkok, Personal, Thailand, travel

almost a blog

Despite my conviction to do a weekly blog, I’m just barely doing it this week. We’re headed to Olongapo today to visit our families and probably meet some old friends. We will be hitting the beach and have some fun. It has been a while since we did this. I hope this will be a fun weekend for everyone. Speaking of fun, here’s a song that I’m sure can cheer everyone up.

 

Happy weekend everyone!

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Filed under Personal, travel

trip: pinatubo aftermath

Ok, so last Saturday, I joined The Travel Factor’s Akyat 08: Pinatubo Fun Climb (‘Fun climb’ was a total misnomer here, believe me. Whoever thought of including that in the title should re-live the trek). I have to be clear on this, the trek is NOT for everyone. If you care too much for your feet or you freak out every time you don’t like what you see in the mirror, then save yourself from a lot of trouble by signing instead for a Boracay or Palawan trip. Anyway, the entire experience was a blast! There are several highlights of the trip and I’m gonna try document them here.

The 4 x 4 rodeo. The entire trip is divided into 3 parts: private bus from Manila to Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac, a 4 X 4 ride to the trekking drop-off point and the trek itself. The 4 X 4 wheeler ride was the first highlight. It’s my first time to do this and I haven’t tried an Africa Safari, but all of my senses tell me that the experience is somehow identical (or at least the first 20 minutes of it). The ride will start on a vast flatland where there’s nothing but grasses. Feel free to use your imagination by switching cows with tigers and water buffalos with gazelles (you can use your own convention, I don’t mind) and it will feel more like a real Safari, I think. This will go on for like 20 minutes so enjoy the ride and ready your camera. Camera with faster shutter would excellent for this situation. If you have a DSLR or any powerful camera, be careful with your grip, the ride is really bumpy so the extra weight on your camera makes it harder to focus. Point and shoot FTW!

cathedralAfter that, you’ll start seeing Lahar formations and some of them are really amazing. I asked our driver if they have a name for these formations and he said nothing. So I’ll play Christopher Columbus here and give names to some of the few interesting formations we’ve seen. The first one, I’ll call it ‘The Cathedral’ because it really looks like a big, old church.

pyramidsThe next one is my favorite, I’ll call them ‘Pyramid’ because they’re  bunch of triangular-shaped formation sitting right next with each other. They look like chocolate hills in Bohol only they have pointed peaks. And mostly, they’re made of Lahar.

stronghold The last one would be ‘The Stronghold’. It looks like (geeky reference coming up) the Black Gate of Mordor. I don’t know how the heck did I relate that to LOTR, maybe that’s just how it struck me. There are so many interesting formations you’ll find along the way. Again, like me, use your imagination, it’ll make the experience more fun.

After this, would be the least fun of the trip: a grueling 3-hour walk to the crater. It will be one of the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life. There will be point that you’d wish you never went or just go back but believe me, it’s totally worth it. I am saying not this not to scare you (well, maybe a little, hehe) but to give you a heads up of you’ll experience. Bring enough water but not too much because you’ll gonna have to carry that up to the crater.

The crater. Assuming that you made the 3-hour ordeal, imagine what’s state you are in after it. Tired, hungry and cranky. You feel that nothing could cheer you up on that moment but food, soft bed and a Swedish by <Name of your dream girl here>. But when you finally see crater, there’s nothing more perfect to say but ‘It’s totally worth it‘. The view is just simply amazing. The water is blue, everything around it is lush.. everything is mind-numbingly beautiful! We were screaming like crazy the first time we laid eyes on the crater.

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You are allowed to swim on the lake, which I encourage you to do so. From the view deck, you’ll have to climb down a 121-step stair so be careful, it’s really steep.

The people. It’s great that I belong in a very nice group, Group 4! Wuhuu! Seriously, they are bunch of great people. We are 12 in the group, 11 boys and 1 girl (Shiela, our leader / fitness instructor / guide). Everyone is very willing to participate and share jokes. We were laughing all the time. The chemistry was really good that we can pick up on each other’s joke.

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I noticed that some participants create a faction and separate themselves from the main group. That’s a real bummer if I was one of them. One of my objectives on the trip was to meet new people.

I’d give this trip a whopping 8 stars. Thanks Travel Factor, I’ll see you on the next trip!

Update: Here are more pictures from one of my group mate, Charles.

Update: Here are my pictures on the trip. Enjoy!

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Filed under Lahar, Personal, Philippines, Pinatubo, Pinoy, travel, Trekking