Thursday, May 30, 2013

Celebrating National Hamburger Month: 4 Burgers from the U.S.A.

The month of May is ending this week and I didn't even know that it's suppose to be National Hamburger Month! Maybe because something like National Hamburger Month is such an American thing to celebrate, that small Asian girls like me don't know what the big deal is. 

But I was browsing the website of Conde Nast Traveler, and I saw their article recommending their burger choices for this occasion. 

Then I remembered that my boyfriend, Jotham, had practically eaten his weight in burgers when he flew to California this May for a cousin's wedding. So I thought, why not put together a list of his burger meals, plus his expert's opinion on each?

So here they are, in all their thousand-calorie glory, four burgers to celebrate National Hamburger Month

1. In-N-Out Burger: The Classic 

In-N-Out double double cheeseburger and animal fries.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Travel Icon: Audrey Hepburn

I don't know how  to justify posting photos of the lovely Audrey Hepburn on a travel blog. So I chose photos of her, where she appears to be out and about, traveling, or starring in a movie set in an stunning city

Audrey has made several places iconic because of her movies or the time she has spent there. There's Rome for example, where she lived for a bit of time with her second husband and son. And of course, Rome was  the setting of her enchanting movie, Roman Holiday, for which she won an Academy Award for best actress. 

She is also very much a patron of Paris -- she has famously said that  "Paris is always a good idea." The romantic comedy, Paris When It Sizzles, is set in the city of lights, and stars her and William Holden. 

Last, but definitely not the least, who can forget the timeless opening sequence of Breakfast At Tiffany's, where Audrey gazes at the famous jewelry store's display window on New York's Fifth Avenue, while munching on a bagel. 

So here's to Audrey Hepburn, to timeless fashion, and to lots and lots of traveling! As the theme song of Breakfast At Tiffany's goes, "There's such a lot of world, to see!"

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bangkok Hostel: Saphaipae Backpacker's Hostel Review

We stayed in Saphaipae hostel for a three-day Bangkok getaway with family. This hotel is rated as one of the top backpacker's hostels in Bangkok, and it's not hard to see why. Great location, clean, comfortable rooms, a hip, modernist aesthetic, and best of all --  it is very, very affordable. 

1. Location

One of the best things that Saphaipae hostel has going for it is its location. Situated in Silom, it is far enough from the crowded chaos of Bangkok's main streets (like Khao San), but near enough that the Bangkok Train station is just a five-minute walk away. It is also easy to hail a cab from the hotel's front door, plus, there are a variety of different restaurants and shops that are accessible in the area.

Photo courtesy of  Saphaipae Backpacker's Hostel Bangkok

Thursday, May 23, 2013

On My Birthday: 31 Best Travel Memories

Today I turn 31. So I decided to do a post about 31 of my favorite travel-related memories. As I recount them fondly, I recognize God's hand in each and every one of these, and I praise Him for his graciousness in blessing me with the the beauty, joy, thrill, peace, amazement, that each of these has brought to me. 

Here's to the years ahead of discovering more and more of his goodness, his faithfulness and his love. 

1. Climbing the snow-covered Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Three Days In Bangkok

One of my Twitter followers, @maydelarose who is flying to Bangkok in June, and she asked for a Bangkok write-up. So what follows  here is the itinerary that my family and I followed, when we flew to Bangkok in 2011. Hopefully, she can pick up an idea or two from this recounting. 

In  the original Thai, the name of Bangkok is Krung Thep or -- "City of Angels."  Plenty of visitors to the city use it as a jump off point to many of Thailand's beautiful beaches. But the city itself can also be the main draw, as it is bursting with great places to eat, sprawling shopping complexes, exquisite temples, and a people known for their sunny smile. Just be on your guard to avoid the street-corner scams, and everything should be heavenly, here in the city of angels.  


Touchdown at the swanky Suvarnabhumi Airport

We left Manila on a 9:35pm Cebu Pacific flight and landed in Bangkok at around 12 midnight. Bangkok's airport is very, very impressive, and looks every inch what an international airport should look like. Opened as recently as 2006, Suvarnabhumi features a high-speed rail link and five alternative routes to the city -- so you don't have to get stuck in traffic.

Suvarnabhumi airport photo courtesy of

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Photo of the Day: Camotes Island in Cebu, Philippines

I think it was on that trip to Club Noah Isabelle in Palawan in 2007 (now reborn as Apulit Island, of El Nido resorts), that then Tourism Secretary Ace Durano mentioned to us, that the best beach in the Philippines for him is -- Camotes Island in Cebu.

My sister and her boyfriend were blessed to have stepped on Camotes' virgin shores, and soon she will be sharing her story on this blog.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

El Nido, Palawan: Day 3

Egrets Ahoy! 

At the crack of dawn, we were in National Geographic mode as we set out to spy on Eastern reef egrets. We passed through thick mangroves, as we came nearer and nearer to the cluster of trees where the white, long-necked, wading birds sat huddled.

At first, they looked like a pale grey mist that had settled on top of the trees. Then suddenly, one by one, they flew off -- noisy flecks of white against the light blue sky. The few that remained behind, waded near the shore and ducked their heads into the water, catching their breakfast.

Our companion, a frequent El Nido guest, said that the sight of the egrets on a descent was even more spectacular. We'll have to wait another day to witness that. Meanwhile, it was off to the bat cave.

Cave of Wonders 

Cudugnon Cave was a bit tricky getting into, one has to lie down and perform a small acrobatic twist, to enter its small opening. Inside, a tall hollow space is embraced by high stone walls. There, high up at the ceiling, crowded the cave's resident bats.

Photo courtesy of El Nido resort

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

El Nido, Palawan: Day 2

Our wake-up call was 4 a.m. Thankfully, coffee and hot chocolate awaited us at the pier, which did wonders to ward off the early morning chill. Feeling very much like commandoes with our cool black lifejackets, mega-watt  flashlights and powerful speedboat, we sliced through the waters to Pangalusian Island, five kilometers away. Our mission? To catch the sunrise form the Pangalusian view deck. But first, the Pangalusian trail.

Every Breath You Take

"I-gasp!-need-gasp!-to rest!" For the first few steps of the mountain trail, I jauntily walked right behind the film crew doing a Palawan documentary. But mid-way through the climb, my legs felt like jelly and I was breathing hard through my mouth.

The trail wasn't exactly difficult -- a 2 km trek that took us deep into the lush tropical mountain forest. But boy, was it hard to keep up with my group's seemingly superhuman pace. Plenty of stops and a bottled water later, I stood on the view deck just as the sun tiptoed on the horizon. Mission accomplished.

Photo courtesy of El Nido resort

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

El Nido, Palawan: Day 1

For most of the time, the fish I met on the dive seemed unaware of me. They swam inches away from me-- displaying their splendid array of copper, and lime green and blue . One of them, however, looked me straight in the eye and held my gaze so steadily, that I almost dropped my mouthpiece. Face to face with an especially inquisitive fish -- it could only have happened in El Nido, Palawan.

Day 1: A Tropical Party 
El Nido is named after the nests (nido means nest in Spanish) which are built by the edible nest swiftlet (balinsasayaw) into the cracks and crevices of Palawan's ubiquitous limestone cliffs. Climbers scale these cliffs to get these nests -- for this is the main ingredient in the prized oriental bird's nest soup.

The resort lies 430 km southwest of Manila and it took a mere 1 hour and 15 minutes by plane, plus an additional 40 minutes by outrigger to get to El Nido. A veteran travel writer I knew of described this place as "heaven on earth," and when I first caught a glimpse of Miniloc resort -- a cove whose mammoth limestone cliffs surrounds dazzling blue waters and cottages on stilts -- it was clear that this was no exaggeration.

I checked into the Cliff Cotttage, which is set amidst coconut trees and against a massive cliff. The bed was big enough for three and woven sawali (bamboo slats) covered the walls. Armed with an El Nido map and wildlife checklist, I set out for my first day.

First in the schedule was a little acquaintance party right at Miniloc's pier. I knelt down and immediately, neon-colored parrotfish swarmed my outstretched hand. Even the jackfish -- one meter long and grey-black in color, gathered around us for their share of free food.

photo by Harvey Tapan

Monday, May 13, 2013

How To Travel on A Budget: 7 Tips

Many of my friends are surprised that a 3-day stay in Beijing cost only 20,000 pesos, or that our five-day trip to Busan and Seoul in South Korea came up to just around 30,000. But there's really no big secret behind it! Just good old planning, budgeting and lots and lots of street food. 

1. Watch out for Seat Sales

My favorite by far is Cebu Pacific's seat sales. Because they drop prices so low (as most Filipinos know, as low as 1 peso),  I've been able to book tickets for places like Beijing, China for only 3,500 pesos roundtrip, Busan, South Korea for  2,500 pesos round trip, and for Boracay -- 482 pesos, roundtrip.

Piso Fares 

This really slashes the cost of your trip drastically. Cebu Pacific usually times their seat sales during Philippine events, holidays, or special occasions. Our Busan tickets, for example, were the 11 peso promo fare that came out on November 11, 2011 (11.11.11).

EVEN MANNY PACQUIAO FLIES CEBU PAC. Taken in February 2011, as Manny and his entourage board a Cebu Pacific flight to Macau.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Photo of the Day: Krabi, Thailand

Krabi, Thailand Photo by  Jomel Gregorio 

 Asian Traveler magazine sent photographer Jomel Gregorio and I, to Krabi Thailand to do a resort review of the ultra-luxurious Ritz Carlton Reserve, Phulay Bay.  

As part of the resort's offering, they arranged for us to go on a gourmet picnic lunch to a nearby island, and we found these bright orange paddle boats on the wide stretch of white-sand beach. 

Soon, soon, I will write about the fairy tale experience that was Phulay Bay. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Beijing Day 2: Highlights

Our second day in Beijing consisted of just two places to visit: the Great Wall and the Olympic Park. 

Part I: The Great Wall At Jinshanling 

We woke up at the crack of dawn -- day 2 of our three-day Beijing trip -- and discovered that it was snowing. We were a bit concerned that our Great Wall trip happened to fall on the one day when it snowed in this Beijing winter.

But Rick, our hostel's manager said, "Snow on the Great Wall is magical." 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beijing Day 1: The Itinerary

1. Eat a hearty breakfast at the hotel. 

Dimsum for breakfast in Beijing

As I explained in a previous post, we discovered that food in the capital city of China, leaned towards the bland side. So these dumplings and noodle dish are tastier to look at, than to actually devour.

After this quick meal, we headed out, for our first day of adventure in Beijing.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Travel Photo of The Day: Seoul Palace Guards

We visited Seoul, South Korea in the autumn of 2012, when the wind was chilly and the sky was a light shade of grey. Still, the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace marched on, in their fierce red uniform, and we were just in time to witness it.
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