05
Mar 14

How to travel smart — or in other words, how I travel

Quite smug of me isn’t it? :P

I like to think I travel smart whenever I go abroad or even travel within India. Of course, it’s not that I haven’t made my share of mistakes, but I’ve learnt from it. Friends and readers alike contact me seeking travel advice all the time, so since I am planning a trip to a dream destination of mine since childhood — Japan — I figured I might as write down the process of how I go about it.

When to travel

I always plan my journeys around events, festivals, concerts, etc. besides just considering the seasons. The reason I do this is because it makes my trip all the more special and I get to see something most tour packages may never be able to include. I’ve been to Thailand when Loi Krathong festival was on, timed my trip to Macau just so I could see my favourite K-pop group live and visited Singapore a second time around F1 week. Timing your vacation around a festival that is unique to a particular country is an experience that makes your vacation a lot different from the norm. Not to Cherry blossom Japanmention the unique photographs and memories you take home. So for my Japan trip, my hope is to be in the country during the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) festival from April-end through May.

Planning your itinerary

Now this depends on your interests, and mine largely revolves around photography. Photography also depends on factors like events, best time of day to shoot and most of all — good weather. So although I keep a schedule, I shift unreserved activities around based on the weather conditions.

How to save money when making flight bookings

Every online travel agent brags about the offering the “lowest fares” — but in my experience, there is no one website that consistently gives you the lowest rates. There’s always the chance a brand new entrant to online space offers the lowest rates compared to the established peers but more often than not, the new website is simply making less profits (or zero margins) in order to give you the lowest rates. This is just a customer retention tactic used by many new businesses as soon as they launch just to win customers over. A year or two later, expect the once ‘new’ website to offer you rates comparable to the established websites. No vendor can stay unprofitable for long.

So use websites like SkyScanner for price comparisons, flight timings and average rates, or visit every single brand — Yatra, MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, GoIbibo, etc. and see what their best rates are. Trust me, I’ve used most of them and no one website has consistently given me the “lowest” rates every single time.

You may even visit an airline’s own website. The advantage of using the airline’s own website is that they give you more options for the same ticket. Meaning, many airlines have different pricing tiers on a flight ticket. The lowest price quoted on an airline’s website will be more of less the same quoted on websites like Yatra and the like. But it’s low because they strip away privileges like air miles, the ability to edit information after booking and changing dates for free. Pay for the higher tier and the airline will offer benefits like the freedom to change name and dates without incurring any further charges, and throw in the air miles for your frequent flyer card. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to book like this when your dates are not set, because third party vendors often charge a hefty fee for re-scheduling or cancellations.

As for budget airlines like AirAsia, know that many a times the rates advertised are often excluding taxes, surcharges, baggage fees and without food. Go step-after-step and you may end up with a price no better than what is quoted by premium carrier. Also check for undisclosed fees and other inconveniences like the lack of connecting flights and poor timings.

Air Asia not-as-advertisedOnce decided on a flight, I don’t book right away. I instead scout for deals. Like coupon/discount codes. One trick I use (and many booking portals facilitate this), is make a search query on a particular website — say for example, Cleartrip, and select a flight but don’t buy it just yet. Close the page and continue browsing. If you enabled cookies in your browser, it won’t be long will before you start seeing Cleartrip ads being served on Google AdSense on the pages you browse soon after. Many a times, Cleartrip (and it’s also happened with GoIbibo) will entice you with an ad flashing a voucher code. It’s like they push coupons to lure you back in to ‘close the deal’. Obviously use the coupon code that way or just search online on coupon websites to get an addition discount.

Sponsored ads

For example, these are sponsored ads I got served on SkyScanner.co.in after I did my searches on the other websites. You sometimes find coupon deals being served specifically to you this way.

Book hostels for cheaper accommodation

In an expensive country like Japan, you have no choice but shell out when in major cities like Tokyo. But expensive city or not, I often enjoy staying at good hostels. For my hostel bookings, I largely use Hostels.com or HostelWorld.com. But no matter how fancy a hotel or budget a hostel I stay in, what matters to me most is — location (besides cleanliness and Wi-Fi)! How do I figure out if the location works for me? Well, most hotel websites will have a map embedded showing you where the hotel/hostel is located. I take the extra step by going to  Google Maps and getting a satellite view of the location. From there, I check what’s near the hotel. Like which is the nearest metro station, are there many eateries nearby so that I can get some food even if I were to come back late at night, convenience stores, etc. I also check how far a place of accommodation is to the attractions I want to see in a particular city or place.

Hostel to Tokyo skytree

For example, the hostel Khaosan Tokyo Smile is only a 1 km away (a few minutes walk) from the Tokyo Skytree attraction and the Tokyo Skytree station itself

The reason why I don’t mind spending a bit more to stay close to an attraction is because staying somewhere cheap far away is pointless when you consider you have spend much more on taxi rides to get to a place you intend to see. So you don’t just waste money, you also waste time — which is precious on shorter trips. From a my research thus far, I have decided to stay somewhere near Akihabara station. From Akihabara, many of Tokyo’s most popular attractions are no more than 15 minutes away by train.

Money exchange and ATM

From my research of Japan, many ATMs aren’t available 24hrs… which I found to be quite weird. None the less, being a Citibank account holder has many privileges and one of the best is the fact Citibank has its own ATM network and office branches in most of the world’s cities. Tokyo is no exception. Of course, I don’t need to rely on Citibank’s own ATMs, as even 7-11 (a chain of convenience stores) has 24/7 ATMs that accept international cards. Although I haven’t been able to confirm if there will be any withdrawal fee if I use my India-issued Citibank card in Japan, I hope they extend the ‘no withdrawal fee’ benefit I get to enjoy in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong as a Citibank account holder. This saves me the trouble of having to buy US dollars from India and convert them in Japan. One tip for money exchange centers: the more expensive the location looks, the worse the rates being offered by an exchange center located there.

Getting around

In cities such as Tokyo, do as the locals do — use the train. Tokyo – and Japan in general- has one of the best rail networks in the world. After all, Japan is home to the Shinkansen, or the bullet trains. You may get a map of the train network, but a smarter way to go about town is to download the many free apps available for smartphone. Both iOS and Android users can download apps showing you the network of Tokyo’s train stations. You can even use certain websites to calculate taxi fares to and fro destinations. Of course, when in Japan, you can’t help but not ride the bullet train. So for that, it’s best to get a JR Pass (JR = Japan Rail) as like many metro cards, the rates are lower if you use them. Some JR Passes even allow for unlimited rides at a set fee.

Language

I always learn a few phrases in a foreign language whenever I go abroad because it’s rude to expect everyone to speak English. In Japan, English is hardly spoken by the majority of Japanese so it is important to learn a few phrases in their language before arriving. And by learning, I mean reading and speaking.

Fortunately for me, I have been studying Japanese for a few years now. (I wasn’t kidding when I said Japan has been a dream destination for a while)

Food and shopping

I’m a foodie, and I’m a non-vegetarian from Kerala, which means I’m okay with pretty much everything! Beef, seafood, chicken, pork and a whole lot more. Food in Japan isn’t as expensive if you eat the food the locals eat, like ramen, noodle soup and such. Of course, I’ve already listed out a few Indian restaurants just in case I miss the taste of our desi masala.

I yearn to some rice burgers in Japan

You can check restaurant menus online as many restaurants list prices. This way you can budget your food spend accordingly. Be prepared though. Non-veg thali meals cost on average Rs. 700-900! Oh, and for vegetarians, good luck!

Baggage

I try to travel as light as possible. Two bags at the most. One, my Kata camera backpack that holds my laptop and camera equipment, and the other, a sports bag with trolley wheels. I specifically use trolley wheel bags as they are easy to walk around with in places where you have clean, leveled roads and pavements. I also don’t carry too many clothes because I always end up buying some new t-shirt or two whenever I’m abroad, so I just wear that in addition to the clothes I brought with me. I also carry a detergent sachet to wash clothes by myself wherever I am allowed to do so. If not, I just hand my clothes over to a laundry service.

To save space and weight, try and carry small tubes of toothpaste, small bars of soap (if needed), thinner towels and smaller bottles of perfume. Like when I usually listen to music, I prefer headphones, but when travelling, I carry ear phones which take up a fraction of the space. I’m also thinking of carrying a fold-able bag inside my sports bag just incase I end up buying too much.

Shopping

I always keep my shopping for the last few days. This way I don’t end up spending too much cash early on, I can go around scouting the best deals and find where goods are sold cheaper, and I don’t have to lug around more luggage if I have to shift hotels or travel to other destinations within a country. For example in Japan, I looked online and found electronics aren’t that much cheaper and a Macbook Air costs the same in Bic Camera (a popular electronics chain) as it does on Flipkart. But I did find out about Takeya, a mall in Tokyo filled with outlet stores of designer fashion brands!

——-

So that’s the gist of how I go about planning my trip. Hope many of you found this to be a rather ‘smart’ way to travel. Just pick another destination and apply the same tips. I for one still have a lot more research to do on Japan before I set off. That… and money :-(


16
Feb 14

A day visit to Bekal Fort and Bekal beach

Date: February 2nd, 2014

Done with my Philippines series, I had no other trip report to write about after that. Being in Kannur, I had always wanted to go to Bekal Fort in Kasarkode district, north of Kannur. Bekal Fort is the largest fort in Kerala. I had vague memories of visiting the fort when I was very young… but my mom insists I had never been there. She say it must have been St. Angelo’s Fort I got confused with and said she herself has never been to Bekal Fort!

So on a fine Sunday morning, we went to Kannur’s ‘private bus stand’. We chose to go by bus thinking it would be easy to get one as Bekal was only 90kms away. The route on Google Maps showed one long road up north and it would take no less than 2 hours. Trouble is, there was some railway crossing repair work going on along the way and because of that, the route buses would be taking today would be longer. But we were only told of this while we waited for the bus to arrive. We (myself, my mother and my cousin brother) contemplated going by train but because we wasted more than half-an-hour waiting for the bus, we missed the trains going north. Finally we boarded a bus going to Kanhangad as we were told we could catch another bus going to Bekal Fort, or Pallikere (the place), from there. So at 9:45 am, the bus finally left Kannur ‘private bus stand’ and we began our long journey to Bekal.

A bus ticket to Kanhangad costs Rs. 50 ($0.80/€0.60) per person.

Railway bridge Kannur backwater

One of the reasons why I wanted to go by bus is to the see the places along the way. While coming back we decided to take the train for a different view.

Timber factory Kannur

There were quite a few timber, wood and tile factories along the way

The bus filled up with passengers after picking up more people from the municipal bus stations along the way. It was a good thing we got seats.

Vegetable farm Kannur Kerala

We would pass many farms along the way

Chuch Kannur Kerala

And a few churches

As I looked at the time, I realized we would only arrive at Bekal Fort past noon. I was disappointed knowing I would miss the morning blue skies and would instead be shooting during the dreaded 11am-1pm time slot — the period during which the sun is at its brightest and washes out all the blues in the sky in photographs.

Kannur backwaters Kerala

Still, I enjoyed the sights along the way

Dry brown grass Kannur Kerala

I also realized how sparsely populated and barren Kannur district is outside of Kannur town

Past noon, we had reached Kanhagad. From there, we saw a bus with Bekal Fort written on it (in English) and so we knew that was our next bus. We boarded it (Rs. 10 for ticket) and it was another 30 minutes until we reached the road leading to Bekal Fort.

Road to Bekal fort Kerala

From here it was just a short walk to the fort

Bekal fort parking KTDC

Good parking space for cars right outside the fort

Entering Bekal fort

Finally we were at Bekal fort!

Bekal fort rules Kerala

Instructions

Temple at Bekal fort Kerala

This was the Mukhyaprana Temple

Bekal fort entrance Kerala

Tickets cost Rs. 5 for Indian citizens and Rs. 100 for foreigners. I don’t agree with this sort of dual-pricing, but it’s what it is. Archeological Society of India (ASI) should raise it to at least Rs. 10 for us. Rs. 5 is too low. Every Indian can afford Rs. 10!

Bekal fort entrance

I could already see how big Bekal fort was

Bekal fort walk way Kasragod

And I was also pleased with how clean and well kept it was

Bekal fort observation tower

This was an observation tower. I just had to climb it to see what the views from up there were like.

CCTV Bekal fort Kerala

They have a CCTV installed up here

Bekal fort observation tower panorama

I took a panorama but oddly the camera wouldn’t focus

Bekal fort burnt grass Kerala

The ‘black’ you see below is because they burnt the dry grass

Bekal fort beach view panorama

Another panorama. That’s Bekal beach in the distance.

Bekal fort stone view

Through the rocks

Bekal fort view observation tower panorama

Another panorama

Unlike St. Angelo’s Fort in Kannur, which was built by the Dutch, Bekal Fort was built in 1650AD by Shivappa Nayaka, an Indian ruler. You may read about the fort’s history on Wikipedia.

Bekal fort panorama

A panorama of the other side

Bekal fort aerial view Kannur

That’s the entrance

Bekal fort observation tower view

We went back down

Bench Bekal fort Kerala

Viewpoint wall Bekal fort

Amma Bekal fort

That’s my mother

Bekal fort rock Arabian sea

This is what they were looking down at

Bekal fort stone bricks

We walked along the outer wall

Wall Bekal fort walk path Kerala

Bekal fort Arabian sea panorama

I wanted to get to that beach

Way to sea Bekal fort Kerala

This was the way to get down below

Bekal fort steps to beach

Bekal fort going down

You have to go down a few (large) steps

Bekal fort sea extension

From the extension. Bekal Fort was the setting for the song “Uyire” from Bombay.

Bekal fort small beach

There was a sign saying not to enter the beach or the water. I’m assuming it was largely because there is no one to watch over you if something were to go wrong.

Bekal beach Kasaragod Kerala

You have beaches on either side of Bekal fort

Bekal village coconut trees by beach

A view from back up the fort

Inside Bekal fort Kerala

Inside Bekal fort Kasarakode

There was little else to see

Bekal fort wall

We were making our way back to the entrance

Bekal fort tourists

Bekal fort panorama Kerala

The final panorama

Bekal fort Mithun mother

One photo of ourselves

… and we were out. It was 2pm and we were hungry. There weren’t any restaurants to be found outside Bekal Fort, so we had to eat from the closest resort.

Nirvana resort Bekal fort Kerala

Nirvana Resort is the nearest hotel to Bekal Fort. Like, right outside the fort — that near! We didn’t find any other restaurant nearby so we just ate here. The food was nothing special and not really worth how much they were charging, but you don’t have any choice.

Outside Bekal fort Kasrakode Kerala

We then left Bekal fort and figured how to get to the beach

Path trees outside Bekal fort

We walked down a small village path

Fence Bekal fort

That led us just outside the fence bordering Bekal Fort

Backwaters Bekal Kerala

My cousin isn’t peeing, just keeping the phone back in his pocket :-)

Bekal fort beach

The path we took was far from the right way to get to the beach, but it’s a shortcut

Bekal beach Kerala

Finally… time to walk barefoot!

Shell beach water Bekal Kerala

The beach was filled with small green shells

Bekal fort from beach

Goodbye Bekal fort

Fishing boats Bekal beach

Pretty big beach

Blademon boat name Kerala

Blademon, which literally translates to “blade son”. Okay Blademon :)

Air India boat Kerala

Funny, both the boat and the airline have a chance of sinking

Fishing boats Bekal beach Kerala

Fishing boats have registration numbers much like vehicles have license numbers

Fishing boats Bekal KasrakodeWhen we reached Bekal Beach Park, a security guard ran towards us and told even if we walk across on the beach without even entering the park, we still need to pay Rs. 10 per person.

Bekal beach park Kerala

Rs. 10 to enter a state-run park? Hmmm.

Camel ride Bekal beach Kerala

Camel rides in Kerala

There’s a “zoo” but that costs extra and it was largely domestic animals, so we just walked away. Instead my mom bought us “kids” some cone ice cream.

When I went to use the park’s toilet, even there they were charging Rs. 5 for using it! So Rs. 10 is for you to walk in the vicinity. Rubbish! And so was the condition the toilets were in going by how much they were charging.

Anyway, we asked the security guard how to get to Kanhangad railway station and he gave us the directions to the main road from where we could board the bus.

Railway line Kanhagad Kerala

We crossed a railway track

Inside Kerala bus

And got a bus going to Kanhangad town

When we arrived at the town bus stand, we crossed over to the other side to get to the railway station. The next train to Kannur was only at 5:20pm, but we had no choice. We bought three tickets (Rs. 50 per person for General class) and went out to drink some chai.

Kanhagad railway station Kerala

We sat at Kanhangad railway station platform for an hour

Kanhagad railway station platform

The Mangalore -> Chennai Express train arrived at 5:20pm… with a few extra minutes added to it

It was crowded inside the general compartment, as expected, but I had no issues standing because I wanted to take photos.

Kerala village coconut trees

The sights along the journey were largely that of village life and paddy fields…

Football paddy field Kerala

… and a lot of football being played on the now dry paddy fields

Muslim Kerala sunset

North Kerala (Malabar) has a long history with Islam

Sunset Kerala backwaters

Me and my cousin stood by the door to make sure I could get photos of the sunset

Houseboat sunset ride Kerala backwaters

That’s a houseboat in the distance. Quite the glorious way to catch the sun set.

Kerala train passing by India

This train would only stop briefly at two stations before stopping at Kannur

Sunset Kerala paddy field

Beautiful Kerala

Sunset Kerala field

Crossing river railway bridge

The sun had set by the time we crossed the river you see in the very first photo above

The train reached Kannur station a few minutes before 7pm. After helping a French tourist who was in the same train with some travel advice, we all left the station.

Overall, the trip was good and I’m quite pleased with the photos I got using only my Sony Xperia Z1 phone camera. This is the first trip taking photos only using my phone and I am now confident that even if I don’t have my DSLR, the photos I get from my phone would still serve me fine.

But a bit of advice, if you wish to visit Bekal Fort from either Kannur or any other cities south of Kerala, just take the train. The buses aren’t as frequent as I thought they would be and it takes longer depending on the time of the day. The ticket rates are the same anyway and although you may not get a seat in some of the general class trains, you get to Kasragod district a lot quicker. Also, try and get to the fort by 9am or post lunch so you can watch the sun set from Bekal Fort itself.

Kannur may have St. Angelo’s Fort but trust me, Bekal Fort is a lot bigger and well worth the views.


28
Jan 14

Philippines 2013: Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple; leaving Manila for Hong Kong

Date: June 3, 2013

Today was my last full day in Manila. I had to step out of the condo as Janet had to go for work. I really didn’t have much planned for today as far as sight-seeing was concerned. I packed light and carried only my Canon 7D camera.

I said my goodbyes to Janet and made my way to UN Avenue station. I was at this stop because I was searching for the Sikh temple in Manila. Online, the Khalsa Diwan was listed as being situated on UN Avenue road. I walked down the road a bit, but didn’t find any temple and the people I asked couldn’t comprehend what I was asking about either.

I walked back to UN Avenue station where I was approached by one of the many cycle taxi drivers who asked me where I wanted to go. I told him I was looking for the Sikh temple… which he didn’t understand. So I just said “Indian temple” and then he went, “ah! sure!”

From inside tricycle taxi Manila

The cycle went down the same road I walked on earlier… only much further down

Indian grocery stores Manila Philippines

I guess he was in the right direction when I saw these Indian grocery stores

The name is Khalsa Dewan Sikh Temple and it is the oldest (and only?) gurudwara in Manila. Like a lot countries in South East Asia, much of the Indian population that have been here for decades are predominantly of Punjabi/Sindhi origin. Philippines isn’t that different either.

Khalsa Dewan Sikh temple Manila Philippines

The facade

Inside Khalsa Dewan Sikh temple Manila

It doesn’t appear to be very big

Khalsa Dewan Punjab icons

I went upstairs

Khalsa Diwan Sikh temple floor

The main prayer hall

Khalsa Dewan langar room

I came back down to the langar for a meal. Like all gurudwaras, anybody and everybody is served a free meal — regardless of their faith.

Roti dal thali Sikh temple Manila

After two weeks of “non-masala” food, Indian flavour tasted so good. Even if was just roti, dal curry and semolina paysam.

Feeling full, I left the gurudwara after making a ₱100 donation.

Paco Manila UN Avenue bridge

I crossed the road to get a better view of the temple’s exterior. The temple is situated right after a bridge.

I walked back to UN Avenue LRT station and took the train to Monumento station. I had seen quite a few malls and markets in the area way back in 2011, but couldn’t explore much because it rained heavily that day.

But after roaming around the area for nearly two hours, I didn’t find much of a difference in prices or quality than what you would find even in areas like Makati. So I left.

Pasay aerial view Manila

An aerial view of the Pasay junction from one of the overbridges

I made way back to Ayala because I made plans with Janet to go out for drinks in the evening.

Manila city skyline evening sunset

One final evening sunset in Manila

Janet promised to take me to her favourite restaurant/bar she frequents called Giligan’s at Market! Market!

TV channels camera crew Manila

On my way there, I saw a big gathering of camera crew all lined up

Ayala condo BGC explosion

Just yesterday, there was a loud explosion at this Serendra condos, which claimed the lives of 3 people. The damage was caused by an LPG line explosion.

I met up with Janet and we went to Giligan’s after I picked up a bottle of watermelon rum I really liked.

Baked cheese oysters Giligans Manila

Fresh baked oysters for ₱138 (Rs. 190/$3/€2.2)  just a plate!

Razon's Halo Halo Filipino dessert

After a pleasant dinner, Janet recommended I try halo halo from Razon’s. Halo Halo is the Philippines’ equivalent of India’s falooda

After that, it was back to the condo for packing bags and an early night’s sleep.

Date: June 4, 2013

I left the condo with Janet after a light breakfast. Janet was kind enough to hire a taxi and see me off at the airport. Much like how my “2011 Pinay friend” Aimee was of immense help on that trip, this 2013 Philippines journey wouldn’t have been the same if not for Janet’s help. It really helps to have a local in a foreign land to help you out.

I was sad to say goodbye to not only her, but also to Philippines. I really like this country and I wish I could travel and explore this beautiful nation at my own pace, but alas, 21 day visa it is.

Flying out of Manila

My Cathay Pacific flight departed on time

Hong Kong airport way to buses

… and landed in Hong Kong an hour later

I had a few hours before my connecting flight to Bangalore, so I decided to step out of the airport and go see an ex-colleague. (Hong Kong gives free visa on arrival to Indians so that’s why it’s easy to step out).

Hong Kong Lantau near airport

I took the high speed train last time, so I figured I would try the bus this time. Bus to Kowloon cost around HKD$38 while the train costs HKD$100

High speed train Hong Kong

The train is obviously faster

Hong Kong longest bridge

Hong Kong’s infrastructure impresses me every single time

Hong Kong city skyline from bus

Kowloon public area Hong Kong

I reached Kowloon in 30 minutes time, but the bus slowed down as we hit traffic

The Peninsula hotel Hong Kong

I got down near the The Peninsula hotel and made my way to a mall where my friend Bikram was waiting for me

Chili crab Hong Kong lunch

Bikram treated me to a nice chili crab lunch. We talked about work and his future ventures.

Post-lunch, Bikram and I parted ways and I took the MTR to Tai Po. I had wanted to see Tai Po market during my 2012 visit to Hong Kong, but I didn’t get a chance to. I had time to kill before heading back to the airport, and I had no interest in wasting time inside malls and amidst the maddening crowds of Kowloon.

MTR underpass Hong Kong

I wasn’t carrying a map so I really didn’t know where exactly Tai Po market was

Hong Kong apartment buildings

Tai Po road sign Hong Kong

I just followed the signs

Tai Po market Hong Kong

Was this it? It was A market in Tai Po, but is this what Hong Kong Tourism Board was promoting as a heritage market?

Tai Po street bus stop

I kept walking

Narrow apartment building Hong Kong

That’s how narrow some apartments can be in tight-spaced Hong Kong

Tai Po road Hong Kong

But after dropping in and out 7-11s to remain hydrated and picking up snacks, I gave up my search for Tai Po market and figured it was time to board a bus and head back to the airport

Bus station Hong Kong

I sat upstairs and looking out the window, I admired Hong Kong’s impressive city planning and infrastructure as bus took around 30-40 minutes to get to the airport

Inside Hong Kong bus

Along the way, it began to rain heavily as the bus neared the airport

I arrived at HKIA two hours ahead of my flight. I already had my boarding pass, so I just walked straight to the security check and completed immigration. I felt hungry so I went up to the food court, which has quite a few restaurants and popular food chains.

Popeyes chicken biscuit meal

I’ve never had Popeye’s before, so I got the chicken and biscuit meal. I really liked it!

It continued to rain outside so we had to make a dash to the bus which would drop passengers at the Dragon Air plane to Bangalore.

Lamb rice meal Dragon Air

My second dinner meal was in-flight. This was a lamb and flavoured rice meal. Pretty okay.

The flight landed on time and I had my younger brother pick me up from the airport.

Although this visit to Philippines wasn’t as “WOW” as my 2011 visit, I look back at the previous few posts and realize it wasn’t too bad either. Yeah, yeah… I couldn’t see many things I had planned on seeing/doing (whalesharks in Donsol, Mt. Pinatubo trek, para-sailing in Boracay) all because I arrived at the tail-end of the tourist season.

Whatever — at least I could use this as an excuse for a third visit, if needed.

The biggest highlight of this trip was possibly all the underwater photographs I managed to capture, all thanks to Janet lending me her friend’s underwater camera. I’ve been snorkeling many times before but this was the first time I could give my readers an idea of what I saw with own eyes rather than just describe how awesome it looked.

The other thing that convinces me to continue travelling across the Philippines is just based on the fact my Philippines posts do so well. Even from the newer 2013 series, several posts continue to get hundreds of views every week — and I thank my readers for that. I keep getting friend requests from Filipinos on a weekly basis, and I consider that a sign they like really my blog. Not to mention some of my most shared stories online on social media are my Philippines posts.

Unlike last time, I don’t have a lot to say to wrap up this travel series. I still don’t enjoy Filipino cuisine (sorry), I still find Filipinos to be some of the friendliest people on earth, I discovered the ugly side to tourism development in island destinations like Boracay and Coron, and I realized the best time to travel Philippines is between February and April, no later than that. Oh, and NAIA Terminal 1 still sucks.

Other than that, I ❤ Philippines and I recommend this country to all those seeking adventure, beautiful beaches, wonderful nature and equally wonderful people. But just get out of Manila and Angeles City first.

Until next time…

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2013: Flying from Coron to Manila; visit to Ocean Park

Philippines 2013: Coron island-hopping tour (Part 2) – Twin lagoon, CYC island; climbing Mt. Tapyas

Philippines 2013: Coron island-hopping tour (Part 1) – Siete Pecados, Kayangan lake

Philippines 2013: Aerial view of Mount Mayon; arriving at Coron

Philippines 2013: Lignon Hill Park, Cagsawa Ruins and Mount Mayon

Philippines 2013: Arriving at Legazpi; going to Donsol to see whale sharks

Philippines 2013: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City

Beachfront hotels and resorts on White Beach, Boracay

Philippines 2013: Bulabog beach, Mount Luho viewpoint and sunset at White Beach

Philippines 2013: Boracay island tour, Puka beach and snorkelling

Philippines 2013: Flying from Manila to Boracay, White Beach

Philippines 2013: Taal Lake Volcano and Peoples Park, Tagaytay

The crap I went through to get my Philippines tourist visa this time

Related Posts with Thumbnails