Last week, I had the best weekend in my life (so far) here in New Zealand. Me and my boyfriend went to Mata-mata to see The Hobbiton Movie set. The two-hour drive from Auckland was very scenic and yes I have seen so many, as in SO MANY cows and sheeps. Sharing with you some photos here :)
The hotel is pretty new, it opened March 2014 and I stayed here August. The pool is small considering this is a five-star hotel. The interior is nice but the automatic lighting is irritating. There’s bunch of freebies like free drinks at Vu’s bar, free apples, free coffee in the room. The staff are helpful. You can find guards in every floor. It was a nice stay I guess.
Had this crazy idea of traveling in Ao Dai (Vietnam’s national dress which was lent to me by a very nice fellow couchsurfer) around Ho Chi Mihn. Walking around, lost (as always) on my way a cathedral (which is supposed to be just behind the market lol, a motorcycle driver noticed me, told me I was dep lam (beautiful) and offered me a tour for 20,000 dong.
He showed me a book full of photos from tourists with their ‘thank you for being awesome tour guide blah blah blah’ notes. Seeing this book, and amazed by his english speaking skills, I instantly thought he’s trustworthy. He brought me to places where a ‘tourist’ don’t usually go. He even treated me local sugarcane juice (the sugarcane will be pressed in front of you, and drink the juice with ice of course), a couple of beer, snacks. He also became my photographer. So after the trip, I felt really great because it was such an awesome day until he said I need to pay 2-freaking-million dong! He said its not 20,000 dong but 20 US dollars per hour which I swear he didn’t mentioned at all! I was almost crying because that 2 million dong’s worth is a lot (how many TNF bags can I buy with that money huhu). Well, I ain’t sure if this guy has some kind of weapon or something. He might try to kill me if I don’t pay, so I paid!
This has been one of the worst thing that happened to me on my solo adventures (aside from being stalked at Muara beach, Brunei). So pips, if you find yourself in HCMC and a dude in a motorcycle approach you showing you a notebook full of photos of his victim (you might see me on that notebook, lol) just say NO and walk away!
It still suck being ‘robbed’ with that money, but anyway, at least I have these awesome photos wearing Ao Dai:
I’ve always wanted to see cherry blossoms in Japan but due to costly flights and hotels, I opted booking a trip via Kansai for the month of May. This month is start of Spring season and flowers are blooming everywhere. I created this post just to show you guys how lovely Japan can be during Spring – low number of tourist, not-so-cold and not-so-hot weather, and hotels are not expensive!
Japan has lots and lots of World Heritage sites and Shirakawa-go is one of my favorites. It is a small, traditional village showcasing a building style known as gasshō-zukuri. If you are from the Philippines, these can be compared as Japan’s bahay kubo. This place looks the best (for me) during winter when it looks like a Christmas Village. Though I visited Shirakawa-go during spring, it still looks awesome with flowers blooming everywhere.
I booked a tour from J Hoppers Takayama for 13,100 yen which includes bus from and to Kyoto/Osaka, half day tour to Shirakawa-go and overnight stay. Might be expensive but trust me, it would be more expensive going there on your own (booking trains, hostels and tours separately)! Sometimes it is better to book a tour and this one is a great deal! http://tour.j-hoppers.com/budget-bus-tour-to-takayama-and-shirakawago/
I recently got my New Zealand tourist visa and to help other Filipinos out there, here is my list. Note that this is only good for less than 3-month travel and if you are staying in NZ for 3-6 months, you would have different sets of requirements that the below list:
1. Application Form:
INZ 1189: For use by people outside New Zealand traveling for tourism or business intending to stay for less than 6 months. To use this form, the applicant, or the employer (if traveling for business), must fund their travel.
INZ 1017: For other visitors, including those who are sponsored, staying for more than 6 months, or undertaking short term study.
-Since my boyfriend is sponsoring my stay, I filled up INZ 1017.
2. Fees – waived if you stay not longer than 60 days.
-Fees are applicable depending on the month you are staying. Say, you want to extend your visa, you can always do so when you are in NZ. Just bring all the requirements there.
3. Valid passport
4. Evidence of financial ability
a. completed Sponsorship Form for Visiting New Zealand (INZ 1025) http://www.immigration.govt.nz/NR/rdonlyres/31F1BFFC-2BB2-442D-981A-30FB01F4C18E/0/INZ1025November2010.pdf
b. Bank certificate
c. Bank statement
d. Credit card statement
-Although I was sponsored, I also make sure that I had enough money in the bank.
5. Certificate of employment with salary, position and approved date of leave
-Yes, this is REALLY important.
6. Travel itinerary (flight bookings, hotel accommodations)
-You can always ask your travel agent to give you a booking certificate (although the flight it is not paid yet). Luckily, I met Ms. Coloma from http://travelspecialistventures.com/ during the NZ fair. She was nice enough to give me a booking certificate. For hotels, I booked using Booking.com, just make sure that there is FREE CANCELLATION so in case your travel plans changed up, it wouldn’t cost you!
7. Birth certificate
-The immigration will give back the original copy so do not worry!
8. Copy of previous visa
After completing the requirements, head to VIA center where you have to lodge your application. Fees are applicable for processing and sending back the visa. To go to VIA, ride a jeepney from MRT Magallanes. If you see a building with Starbucks and 121 Bar, that’s it!
Processing would take around 5-10 working days. But before they will grant you a visa, expect a phone interview. Since my bf is sponsoring my stay, the immigration asks about how long our relationship has been, where me meet, how we met, and asked me about my bf’s details (such as full name, address). She also asked about whether I have plans in settling in NZ permanently. I said yes and I actually told her I have interviews in NZ!!! Lol! I was such an honest person, and I thought she will deny my visa (I did not mention about having interviews in my application form)! Well, she asked what my profession is, maybe that’s the reason why she granted my visa! :)
THE BEST KA EL NIDO, IKAW NA! Can’t help falling in love with this place. Pristine water, white sand beaches, cool rock formations, amazing water activities, good restaurants, nice locals, everything you need are ALL here!
Okay, our flight was moved from 5:50 am to 7:25 am, great! We arrived in Puerto Princesa, Palawan around 8:30 am. At the airport, we booked a van for Php 600/pax. Van would take 5-6 hours to El nido. If you prefer to ride the bus, ride a tricycle and head to the terminal. This is cheaper but with longer travel hours due to more stop overs. At El Nido terminal, ride a tricycle going to your hotel (for Php 50). We arrived at The Alternative Inn around 4:00 pm.
We had dinner at a newly opened restaurant called Mezzanine. It’s a french owned restaurant with cozy ambiance with good view of El Nido. Don’t forget to take off your footwear upon entering this resto! Try their pizza and avail of their happy hour, buy one take one on cocktails only 4-6 pm (as I remember)! :)
Oh the sound of the fan dying! Oh no, it’s 6 am! Power cut!!! It’s just power cut, don’t panic… Get on your feet, it’s the best time to explore El Nido! For breakfast, head to Sea slug’s for a Php 150 meal complete with coffee (not brewed though, urg!).
What to do next? Perfect question, head to The Alternative Inn’s tour guide, Kuya Edward (kuya means big brother in tagalog) and ask if he still have seats for you on his daily island tours. He was going to do Tour A on that date and luckily there were available seats for us! The tour costs Php 1200 but I used my haggling tactics and paid Php 11o0/pax. This fee does not include the Php 200/pax environmental fee which expires for 10 days. Pay the environmental fee at the Tourism office and you are good to go!
Our group on Tour A consist of 3 guides, 3 Chinese girls, a German girl and Iranian dude (a couple) and us – 10 people on the boat! The first destination was the Secret Lagoon which is located in a small island reminiscent of the movie “the Beach”. It is surrounded by limestone cliffs. You have to enter a small hole to witness a massive caldera used to be a cave which collapsed and now is surrounded by karst cliffs.
Can’t swim so I need a lifebuoy lol! After this tour we went to Shimizu Island where our guides cooked our sumptuous lunch.
After the lunch we headed to Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon where the views are S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R!!!
Seven Commandos Beach was our last destination for that day. The island was named after the 7 remaining Japanese commandos who lived in the island as stragglers after World War II. The view there is great with white sand and palm trees not to mention a sari-sari store selling ice cold beers and some cocktails! It was awesome chilling here!
As you can see below, Anth is enjoying his bottle of San Miguel. Did you see his sunburnt skin? That’s because he wanted to have a tanned skin like mine! LOL
It was such a nice trip- Thanks to Kuya Edward, our guide from The Alternative!
Because Anth is so sunburnt, we never went on a tour on the second day. We just stayed and chilled at our hotel and went out for meals and drinks. Went to a romantic French restaurant and had candle light dinner because there was no electricity in the island. How romantic!!! Kilig to the bones, lol!
There are couple of nice bars that we like in El Nido. One is Pukka Bar where a Reggae band performs every night at 8pm. This restaurant/bar is pretty famous so be sure to be there early so you can have seats! Another one that we love is Sea slugs where we ate our breakfast in the morning and drink our bourbons at night. Unfortunately there were nights that these two bars won’t have seats for me and Anth so sometimes we settle to those less lively bars along thee beach.
This is Tour C time and time to discover more rock formation and more amazing views in El Nido! Did you know that part of the movie “Bourne Legacy” was shot and filmed in the islands of Dilumacad and Matinloc?
First stop is the Hidden Beach which is famous. Unfortunately, the waves were being wild and the current of the water looks strong. Most of the people on the tour stayed on the boat. Others went swimming and went back immediately as they almost drown. :(
Dimalucad and Helicpter Island were our next destination. The island resembles to, guess what, a helicopter! We spent some 45 minutes there to sunbathe and swim (jeez, I almost drowned, thanks to Anth for saving my life!).
Another fantastic s spot in El Nido is where the guides prepare a sumptuous lunch by the beach – Star Beach. While you are discovering some cool corals and fishes, or sunbathing or swimming, the guides will grill seafood, steam rice and prepare some fresh fruits.
After a tummy-filling lunch, we headed to Matinloc Shrine which is formerly known as Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc. This place used to be a seminary which closed due to environmental concerns. The seminary looks like a mansion that some rich family used to lived to. Wonder how they get to build that in a secluded island!
Matinloc also has an amazing view. Just climb up steep and sharp stones and see below images:
Take some selfies on the edge of the limestones!
Hidden beach was our last destination.
After arriving from the tour, we checked out from The Alternative and checked in to El Nido Beach Resort. Had a nice dinner at the Altrove that serves brick baked pizzas and sumptous pastas. Be sure to be there early as there are plenty of tourist lining up to fill their stomachs with real good food.
After buying some pasalubong we checked out at 1 PM and hired a tricycle going the van terminal. Our trip to Puerto Princesa begins. We truly had an amazing time in El Nido and can’t wait to get back!
Day 1, January 24, 2013
First trip of year 2013! There were supposed to be nine of my officemates joining this trip but ended up to four confirmed goers. This trip is very inexpensive. We were able to find a contact that offered us tor and accommodation for 3D/2N for Php3, 000 each.
We arrived at Francisco Reyes Airport at 1:20 pm and outside were our ‘sundo’. The tour comes with airport transfer so no more hassle in looking for a taxi. It was a long way from the airport to the city (I think it’s like an hour).
We were booked at Darayonan Lodge and its location is perfect because it is in the City.
Our room is good for four. It has a small TV, small fridge and hot and cold shower. The resort too has a very cool ambience – very quiet and serene. There is a pool within the resort where you can chill with your friends.
Within the resort is a souvenir shop
While waiting for another friend, we had lunch at Lolo Nonoy’s which is just walking distance from the resort.
Kare kare, chicken curry and adobong posit
After having lunch, we went to the store and bought some chips and foods for the following day.
Our friend Tey finally arrived at 5:30 pm. We went straight to Maquinit Hotspring and take a two hour dip.
We each paid Php 150 (which was reimbursed to us by Kuya William, our tour coordinator) for the entrance.
I was surprised about how hot the water here is – REALLY HOT! People say it’s good for those who have arthritis. Surprisingly, a lot of tourists are here even at night (which I think is the perfect time to visit a hot spring). Anyway, Maquinit hotspring closes at 9pm and we stayed there until 8 pm.
We went to Kawayan Grill to have dinner after.
This where the famous Subascu bar is located which is unfortunately empty that night.
Food is a bit expensive and has very small serving. My favourite dish is the Ulo ng baboy (pig’s head).
After having dinner we went back to the resort and chilled at the pool drinking mojito and vodka we bought in the afternoon.
Day 1 expenses:
Lunch at Lolo Nonoy’s – 110
Food and drinks – 90
Dinner at Kawayan Grill (1280/4)- 320
Day 2, January 25, 2013
Breakfasts are served at 6 am to 10 am and you have to order your desired breakfast the night before. I had corned beef and egg and we ate at the resort’s beautiful garden.
Kuya Jaymark (our tour guide) fetched us at 9am.
Our first stop is Siete Pecados where the most beautiful corals can be seen.
Second stop is the most beautiful place I have ever been to – KAYANGAN LAKE.
You have to climb a cliff before reaching the peak where there is a cave and the most beautiful view of the lake.
You have to climb a cliff before reaching the peak where there is a cave and the most beautiful view of the lake.
Climb down the other side to swim in the lake and see the wonderful rock formation.
Third stop is Twin peak where we went snorkelling again.
We stopped by Banol Beach to have lunch.
We had fish, quids, crabs, lato and veggies for lunch
After lunch we headed to the WW II Japanese ship wreck. It was eerie I didn’t like it too much so I returned to the boat. However, fishes there are amazing.
6th stop is CYC Coral Garden where the most beautiful coral can be seen.
We headed to CYC beach after snorkelling.
Last stop for the day is Twin Lagoon. There is a small cave upon entering the lagoon
The rocks are just amazing.
We ended the tour by a great sunset view by the sea.
We had dinner at Santino’s grill located near the port
Day 2 expenses:
Merienda at Palengke – 60
Tricycle to Snatino’s – 10
Dinner at Santino’s – 190
Total – 260
Day 1: November 29, 2012
I arrived at Lumbia Airport at around 9:30 am. I was supposed to take a jeep to the city proper but a cab driver asked me if I don’t mind sharing a cab with another passenger and pay only Php 150. I meet my friends coming from Butuan City at Lim Ket Kai Mall. After withdrawing some cash, me and my friends went to another friend’s house in Regency.
After having lunch at Mcdonald’s near Ateneo, we hop to the jeepney to start our rafting adventure. We dropped by the Great White Water Tours and pay for Php 1250 each and leave our valuables
It took almost an hour to reach the place where we would start rafting.
Our guide taught us the basic of rafting (how to move forward, backward, left, right, etc.)
Our package is advanced – that means that we’ll be trying out 24 rafts J
High five after a raft
Row row your boat
Yuko yuko stones and snakes ahead
My friends standing in the boat (I have no guts, I have bad sense of balance)
After 4 hours in the water, we still have the rush :)
After taking a bath, we went back to our friend’s house.
We had dinner at Tita Fannie’s – it is a local restaurant that serves local delicacies. Sorry I have no picture L
After pigging out, we went to Ateneo (they are celebrating a festival).
We went back home at midnight
Day 1 expenses:
Taxi to Lim Ket Kai – 150
Lunch at Chowking – 78
Van to Regency – 20
Taxi to Ateneo – 140/4
Lunch at Mcdo – 52
Rafting fee – 1250
Tricycle – 10
Taxi to regency – 150/4
Van to Ateneo – 15
Dinner – 92
Gellato – 50
Jeepney to highway – 10
Tricycle to Regency – 8
Total Expenses for DAY 1: 1807.5
Day 2: November 30, 2012
We left the house at 5am and took a van going to the port at Market City. It took almost an hour before we left Market city because the van has to wait for other passengers.
We reached the post at almost 8am.
We reached Camiguin at 10:30 am and had a quick breakfast upon landing.
This is an impromptu trip and we have no booking for any accommodation and tour. So we asked around the people in the canteen where we could rent a multi cab with driver to tour us around.
We found a very cheap tour for only 1500 (for four of us) to tour us around Camiguin for a day.
First stop is Katibawasan falls. After paying 20 pesos, we headed to the coldest falls in Camiguin.
It is the coldest falls I have been to.
We ate Kipling – a local delicacy
We headed to Sunken cemetery after.
After finishing off our buko, we went to Church ruins.
After praying, we went to Cold Spring.
And then hot spring…
We went back home (Lydia’s cottages) at 6 pm calling it a day
After having dinner at the nearby canteen, we went to a store and bought liquors and chips for a party by the beach.
DAY 2 EXPENSES:
Taxi to terminal – 150/4
Van to port – 120
Fare to Camiguin – 175
Breakfast – 50
Multicab rental – 1500/4
Katibawasan falls entrance fee – 20
Kipling – 10
Lydia’s accommodation – 1300/4
Buko at Sunken Cemetary – 20
Cold Spring – 20
Hot Spring – 30
Dinner and Liquors – 100
Total Expenses for Day 2 – 1282.5
DAY 3: December 1, 2012
We woke up in a morning rain waiting for the hired boater to knock on our door. Sandbar!!! Here we come!
The weather was quite bad (a typhoon came after we left Camiguin) so it felt like rafting we were in the sea. The sandbar was awesome, before you get there you could see corals surrounding it.
A vendor approached us and offered us some sea urchin for 20 pesos. It was my first time eating that haha I must say :ppppp
We headed back to CDO before lunch time.
We reached CDO at 3pm, we had a quick stop at Missy Bon Bon at LimKetKai to buy the famous pastel (buns with yema inside)
Day 3 expenses:
Fare to white island – 500/4
Fare to terminal – 10
Van fare to port – 30
Fare to CDO – 170
Psalubong – 140
Total expenses for Day 3 – 475
TOTAL EXPENSES: 3565