Tag Archive | "travel"

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Arica: Lauca National Park

Posted on 21 December 2015 by Dreidel Regala

lauca

Week 13

Arica

If you find yourself in the northernmost part of Chile – Arica – and you have the time then I suggest to go see Lauca National Park.

It’s quite interesting to find communities in the altiplano where it’s cold, dry, high, and surrounded by volcanoes. And it’s beautiful especially Chungara Lake. The tricky part though is that the park is found on the road to the Bolivian border which is mostly used by cargo trucks only. While I’m not sure about this, I think to go there one must take a tour or rent a car. However since there are communities up there, it is possible that there are local buses too.

***

I was staying in Sunny Days Hostel in Arica and was preparing to go to San Pedro de Atacama the following day when I suddenly remembered reading about Lauca National Park. “How much is the tour to Lauca?” I asked Ross, the hostel owner, when I found him in the dining area. He told me it’s 23,000 pesos but he has to check if there is a tour the next day. Thankfully there is.

“Do you think I’ll be fine with the altitude?” I’m not great with altitude. I can sometimes manage it but it’s never a breeze for me. In the end we agreed that I just drink coca tea in the morning and drink lots of water.

Lauca

After a few minutes, we arrived in Poconchile and saw the first church in Arica.

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Somewhere along the way we stopped to check out some really tall cactus but before we could get off the van, the guide said – “There’s a magnetic phenomena in this area, watch” – then the van started moving backwards. I honestly don’t know what that was about or where the pull is coming from so I just blurted – cool!

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And then it was Lauca National Park.

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At some point out there I started to feel the altitude. But it wasn’t super bad, I think I was sleepy more. Sleeping actually helped me keep the headache at bay.

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Bodrum: Turkey’s white marina city

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Dreidel Regala

bodrum

Week 8

Bodrum

After around 3 hours of bus ride from Kusadasi where my friend Nancy and I came from, we arrive in Bodrum. The streets are getting narrower and the houses are distinctly painted white. I’m still in Turkey I know it as we passed by a doner shop but it feels different.

We came to a stop in a traffic light, a gray convertible pulls up beside the bus. I watch the passengers for two seconds and it is then that it settles to me I’m in a place where the rich Turkish go for their pleasure and fun.

The Aegean coast shows up after then. But I could say nothing cause when I see something new, only my eyes move for a while.

***

In history it is called Halikarnassus but now it is known as Bodrum. It’s got quite a history and ancient ruins can be found around but now I think people go there for the water and nightlife.

Bodrum

Not really a backpacker place judging from the prices of shops and food but we got by. And even earned some beautiful smiles.

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Walking along the marina is also nice.

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There are so many evil eye accessories if you’re a fan of that.

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Backgammon (aka tavla) is quite a popular game in Turkey especially to these sailors passing up time.

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In my opinion if pressed for time, Bodrum can be missed. But it’s always nice to see how Turkey can be both European and Asian and I think Bodrum can be that.

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Traveling alone is hard (but not too hard)

Posted on 29 November 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Travel alone is hard

There I said it. Because it’s true, traveling alone can be a step tricky compared to traveling with somebody. But I’m not going to trump those “Go travel alone” listicles out there because I love reading them too. But there is another side to it.

1. You constantly have to look out for your luggage. For girls this could mean peeing with your huge backpack on. Why? Because who knows what could happen to your stuff if you let them out of sight so not a chance there.

2. You don’t have a different angle when tackling a decision. Okay to be honest this does sound liberating because you don’t have anyone to counter your point but then again that other angle could have been a new adventure or a cheaper route.

3. You have to finish that tall can of whatever by yourself. Because tomorrow it wouldn’t taste good anymore or you already have a new recipe in mind.

4. Or master cooking for one. You don’t want to overdo it or you’ll have to store/throw it.

5. You have to make space for the stranger sitting next to you. Yes it’s a small space but it’s all you got for your stuff and your body.

6. You have to pay taxi all by yourself. Taking an early morning flight? Well you could be the only person in your hostel that’s leaving so no choice but to pay it all up.

7. You have to take care of yourself when sick. I don’t like getting sick but it could definitely happen and when it does I have to take care of myself.

8. You will have plenty of unknowns. You only have one brain so no matter how smart you are there’ll still be things you have no clue of.

9. You don’t have a backup alarm clock. You set your alarm but for some reason it didn’t wake you and now you’re running because your bus or flight is about to leave.

10. You sleep with strangers in the room. Most likely you have gotten to know them already in the day and they’re nice but when your only roommate decides to comeback at night wasted and starts punching cabinets, yeah that’s a totally scary alone moment.

11. You cannot take a ‘scene’ shot of yourself. If you love selfies then just extend your arm or buy a stick. But if you want to do something more then you have to bother a stranger. And may have to do this several more times.

12. You have to lie in a creative way and fast. You love meeting locals and all but when that nice unassuming guy you asked directions with on the bus to the beach (whom eventually decided he’ll join you) insists that you freshen up and have tea in his place across the street, you’re suddenly – oh sorry my boyfriend is waiting for me.

13. You have to endure goodbyes a lot. You will definitely meet lots of great people but at some point you’ll have to say goodbye or they will say goodbye. It’s repetitive but you do it all over again.

It is hard to travel alone in some sense and while most travel articles will say you have to do it at least once, I still think – to each his own. Do it if you really want to. Don’t do it if you think you’ll be miserable. That said I’ve met tons of people traveling alone so it’s just a matter of getting used to. Besides you’re a better person each day.

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Beijing: Mutianyu Great Wall

Posted on 20 September 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Mutianyu Great Wall

Week 1

Beijing, The Great Wall

“Walk up to the highest point tower 23 for a nice view”

She tells us this as we drive on a sunny Friday morning to the Mutianyu section of the wall. What we didn’t know was that from tower 14 where the cable car ends it was going to be a test of legs to tower 23. It took us around two hours back and forth I think. Difficult but doable.

Mutianyu Great Wall

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The view was spectacular paired with blue skies.

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At some point I was surprised to find empty sections considering what I’ve read about the wall getting really crowded. To be fair I did go on a weekday morning.

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Walking a little further out of tower 23, the wall is crumbling a little and trees growing in which could be a sign that it’s unrestored.

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Although it’s not necessary to walk all the way to tower 23, doing so is rewarding. Just bring water because the ones sold in the wall is triple the price. And there are no toilets up there so do your business before going up.

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Romania: Maramures valley

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Romania: Maramures valley

Posted on 12 September 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Maramures

Week 5

Maramures

“Okay this is your bed”

“Oh my gaad you’re here!” I squealed to the sleepyhead who squinted at us from the bottom bunk when we entered the room.

Maramures. Way up north in the Romanian territory, bordering Ukraina, and is part of the Carpathians. When Romanians tell you to go there, you go there. And that’s why I find myself wandering in this cultural region. The sleepyhead above is a friend I met in Brasov who I was convincing nonstop to go meet me there. Thankfully she did.

***

Wooden houses

While Transylvania’s got castles, Maramures has the wooden houses. We went to an open air village museum in Sighetu Marmatiei and was rewarded with a glimpse of the past. I’m not sure though if they’re original cause they look old-new.

Maramures

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Barsana monastery

A visit to Barsana monastery on a sunday will not only mean seeing the wooden church and the colorful flowers but also witnessing Romanians dress up in traditional clothes. It’s awesome and they’re so beautiful! We met some of them who came from the city and are just in town for the holidays all dressed up for sunday.

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Maramures

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Cemetary

No horror story here, I just like Romanian cemetaries. They’re so interesting to look at. We went to the one in Salistea de Sus but there is a more popular place in the north called Merry Cemetery.

Maramures

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People

Romanians in general are very friendly but I’ll give extra to the ones in the north. When my friend and I was walking around Salistea de Sus we had so many interactions with them and we don’t even have a common language. We sit on a bench and the next thing we know we’re sharing laughs with a nice granma. We stand beside the road and then we’re fed cookies by an old couple and their lady neighbor. We wait in the bus stop and then it was like everybody wants to get to know the Korean and Filipina in town. I love them and their fedoras!

Maramures

***

Maramures is nice but one thing to note is that public transport is rare so going around is either hiring a taxi or hitchhiking which is quite common. We did this twice and one asked to be paid, it’s normal though.

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Moscow: Metro sightseeing

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Moscow: Metro sightseeing

Posted on 01 August 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Moscow metro

Week 4

Moscow

“Want to check out the metro?”

“Yea sure we can probably do a few stops then walk around this area..” she said pointing to several pages of printed Moscow write ups in the table.

“Okay I’m gonna list the possible stops.”

The common room was filled with what I suspect as Muscovite students. And while we map out our stops I can’t help but think how awesome it is for them to be commuting in this city everyday and see the underground gems.

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Kievskaya station (brown) Kievskaya station 20150720_144327-1 Kievskaya station Belorusskaya station (brown) 20150720_145312-1 20150720_145355-1 Belorusskaya station Novoslobodskaya station (brown) 20150720_145804-1 Novoslobodskaya station Prospekt Mira station (brown) 20150720_150302-1 20150720_150349-1 Prospekt Mira station Mayakovskaya station (green) 20150720_151756-1 Mayakovskaya station

 ***

“Come on let’s go out!”

We ended up stopping a few more metro stations than planned cause yes they were that interesting. If only I had time I’d see them all.

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Li River

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Li River

Posted on 25 July 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Li River

Week 1

Guilin

Some time ago I came across a picture of the karst rocks of the Li River on the internet. The picture was so dramatic with reflections off of the water and a fisherman in his boat. It had me.

Photo credit to Yan Zhang Photography

Photo credit to Yan Zhang Photography

Fast forward to June 2015 I finally got to see it. It was quite cool, reminded a little of the rock formations I see in the Philippines but this one had more of them – a lot actually.

Li River

Li River

It didn’t look as dramatic as I wanted it to be but that’s my fault I went in the middle of the day.

From Guilin proper I had to go to the port area an hour away. There I took a raft down the river which ended in Yangshuo. The river cruise was nice but I think what’s even better is a view from somewhere high.

Boats in Li River

And it was my first time to see a bird used to catch a fish!

A bird fishing in Li River

If you haven’t heard of Guilin before don’t be shocked to find that the southern city is actually quite popular to local tourists. Buses, tour groups (guilty on this one!), and hordes of boats scattered in the river lessened the appeal.

But you may just find a nice family that will “adopt” you, feed you, and walk with you even without exchanging words that you recognize – like this girl’s!

While a lot of people stay in Yangshuo for a few days, day trippers like me had only a couple of hours to spare in the county before heading back. So I spent it in West Street.

West Street

West Street

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Batanes: The island of Sabtang

Posted on 17 February 2014 by Dreidel Regala

Ever saw that picture of a beach with an arch in Batanes.

Morong Beach

Morong Beach

That’s the famous landmark of the island Sabtang. But it’s not the only thing you’ll find in the nice island.

***

“Nakakahilo”, these were the marking words to me by a friend over our seaside lunch in South Batan, “pero may binibigay namang throw up bag sa passengers”. They were in the island during the height of typhoon Maring and just came back a day before I landed in Basco. I was tempted to imagine disgusting trajectories but managed to divert my thoughts to the deliciousness of the coconut crab in the table. It is however unknown to me if that friend used it.

When next morning came and I found myself sitting in the faluwa, my Perfect Storm expectation was debunked. In fact the weather was perfect, the sun was out, the sea seemed normal, and the locals were mostly standing freehand in front of the boat. Mid way the boat stopped. “What’s going on?”, I blurted. “They caught fish”, pointing to the back. The boat crew was multitasking: navigating and fishing at the same time.

***

Fiesta and Balance

An interesting concept to fiestas in Batanes. Fiestas usually meant food feast. But food rarely gets finished the first day. So when I was in Sabtang with some friends, we were treated to a Balance. Balance generally means feasting on leftover fiesta food. Until this day though, I still don’t get why it’s called that. Afterwards we had another lunch in Morong beach hence for that day we had a hefty double lunch.

Going to "Balance"

Heading to the “Balance”

Stone houses and Overnights

The staple stone houses of Batanes are I think most abundant in Sabtang. Plus sleeping in one is possible there too. I do recommend spending at least a night (probably in Chavayan town) cause past lunch time you can have the island seemingly void of day trippers.

Stone houses in Sumnanga

Stone houses in Sumnanga

Chamantad viewing deck

On the way to the town of Chavayan, you’ll pass a viewing deck. It’s actually one of the nicest things I’ve seen in the province. Definitely worth a stop.

Chamantad viewing deck

Chamantad viewing deck

Unexpected landscapes

As with all of Batanes, random sceneries are everywhere.

Lake which appears only during rainy season

A lake which, as I was told, only appears during rainy season

Sumnanga bay

A boy playing on top of a rock under a silhouette sky

An Ivatan at work

An Ivatan at work til the sun sets

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How to Prepare for Solo Travel

Posted on 25 January 2014 by Dreidel Regala

You probably heard of some people who traveled alone and probably told yourself you could never be as brave as they are. But did you know that once upon a time they all felt how you feel now?

The idea of solo travel did not come easy to me as well. Like everybody else, I had apprehensions in the beginning. Heck I remember how my first commute alone made me feel incredibly anxious! What if the people in the jeep ignore me when I pass my “bayad”? What if I forget where I should go down? But hey look, commuting alone is now like a walk in the park to me (except for the random bad traffic and chaos).

I’ve traveled alone in Batanes, Singapore, and Taiwan. Not really a long list that would say I’m an expert in this but I just wanna share that it’s totally doable. And you can do it too!

Solo travel in Batanes

Solo travel in Batanes

Who is this for?

If you…

1] are thinking of embarking on your first solo travel some time in the future
2] need a different adventure in your life
3] want to go somewhere but cannot find any companion
4] want to learn how to be independent
5] are curious about the idea

If you answered YES to at least one of the above then maybe it’s time to consider going on your first solo travel adventure. Here’s how I transitioned from being too nervous about it to being comfortable with the idea of traveling on my own.

The Transition

Step 1] Travel with family or friends

If you haven’t traveled before, this is a good introduction to traveling. Going with your family or friends makes traveling fun and comfortable. It can also build up your knowledge of what happens while traveling without stressing too much about dealing with it on your own.

Step 2] Join a group tour with a friend

A group tour is an organized tour that is open for anybody to join. Organizers will pool all joiners then go together on the trip. I joined my first group tour with Travel Factor to Northern Cebu (Malapascua + Bantayan) in 2009 with the intention of meeting people at the same time cutting the costs of doing the trip alone. But the thought of knowing nobody in the group made me extra nervous. So I brought a friend with me and we had fun. Had we done it on our own, our expense could be higher so good thing we joined a group instead.

Step 3] Join a group tour alone

There are then those times when you wanted to go somewhere but couldn’t find somebody to go with. Maybe your family’s not interested or your friends are not available. Either way you find that everything in your body is ready to go except that you are alone.

When the idea of doing an Indochina overland trip occurred to me, I couldn’t find someone to join the boat. I think at that time going abroad was regarded as impossibly expensive for a Filipino, especially a yuppie, that the idea of doing several countries on a single go is unthinkable. But I did. I mustered all my nerves and went ahead with the trip by joining a group tour. And I had a grand time!

Going on a group tour on my own allowed me to get a glimpse on what it’s like to travel without knowing anybody. Only that I’m not entirely alone cause I got a group to go with. It also helped me get used to meeting new people.

Step 4] Travel alone and meet locals

By this time you are almost comfortable with traveling solo. What you have to do now is make that step. Should you feel lonely? No. It will only feel that way if you aren’t meeting people.

Before I went on my solo trip to Singapore, I contacted some locals to hangout with. I am a couchsurfer so finding one was easy. I met up with them, a mix of locals and foreigners, and we drove around town. It was fun but most importantly I had company.

****

It’s never easy to start traveling solo but when you do you will surely find yourself traveling even more and gaining more friends.

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Festivals: The Dinagyang of Iloilo, Philippines

Posted on 23 January 2014 by Dreidel Regala

Did You Know?

The Dinagyang Festival (of Iloilo, Philippines) has won the most in the Aliwan Fiesta (a.k.a. The Mother of all Fiestas) street dance category held in Pasay City every April of the year. Philippines has so many festivals and witnessing them all in one place, battling for pride, is sure fantastic.

Oh yeah Dinagyang 2014 is up this weekend!

Don’t forget to bring home some Biscocho Haus butterscotches. =)

Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo, Philippines

© Photo credit to Dr. Raul Banias

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