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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spending a Few Sipping Good Days at Munnar’s Tea Country


Seated at the front of the official KeralaBlogExpress bus I can already see the spiraling road ahead of us leading to the mountainous region of Munnar. Unmindful of the sensational scenery that lies ahead, I lay my head to rest on the glass window, just as sleep is about to beckon. As the bus revved its engine and struggle to climb the zig-zag road, the fog enveloping the countryside starts to thicken and as if on cue, I looked at Kim, who was seated across me and I saw the scenery outside her window. I found myself relishing the initial cadre of what would become an almost endless stretch of cotton-ball-like appearance – of tea plantation, that starts and ends as far as my eyes can see.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Fine Architecture Seen on the Streets of Mumbai

The streets of Mumbai casts a dizzying spell even to this third world traveler used to seeing voluminous crowds and long queues of people rushing to and from various errands. It reminded me of our first stop in India; the city of Kolkata where all noises came to us like cannon blasting from all direction; the relentless honking of automobiles and the incessant yell from vendors among dozens of other reverberations all comprise a mix tape of mother of all audible uproars.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

An Ideal Off-the-Grid Destination: Cuatros Islas in Inopacan, Leyte

Under a bright blue, cloudy sky, at the receiving end of the beautiful radiance of the sun, we set sail toward our destination: the dotted islands off the coast of Inopacan, which the locals appropriately refer to as Cuatros Islas. Our short boat journey started off with nothing out of the ordinary, looking ahead I fervently wished we could magically cut the distance: Boat rides bore the wits out of me, even if I love hopping from one island to another in this archipelagic country of ours.



Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Time I Met the Taj Kids


(this article appeared in the 2015 3rd Quarter issue of Resource Magazine in New York)

Growing up I remember flicking through every glossy pages of travel magazines of photographs that depicts beautiful places and interesting portraits of people belonging in different cultures. My mental immersion in those printed images further inspired myself to dig my own wanderlust and eventually, a life of travels. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sleeping on Desert Sands under the Sheltering Stars in Jaislamer, India

I did not rejoice seeing my camel struggle to walk and carry my weight across the vast desert sand dunes of Jaisalmer. In fact, I see a tear form near its eyelids. I pat its back gently and run my palm over its rough skin I hear it made a sound of acknowledgement. I realized I can’t go overly sensitive at their plight – as these kings of the desert have thrived on this landscape performing what it is asked of them; to transport men and supplies across this harsh environment which at the same time pepper the eyes with visually stimulating scenery.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Out of the Shadows and Into the Light: Songs of Hope at the Ginsiyaman Music Festival in Leyte


It was like a hand from heaven came out of the sky and pointed to a spot in the middle of the vast Leyte farmland, and out appeared a spacious campsite and festival grounds encircled by towering trees and green pasture. In the middle stood the main stage waiting to be rocked by the night’s list of musical artists. All around from where I stood, I saw people lying scattered in small groups all over the greens. Almost instantly, I felt the vibe at the The Farm in San Miguel, Leyte mirroring the strong camaraderie harnessed together by the Yolanda survivors, the Leyte residents, and the many volunteers from all over world.

Friday, October 16, 2015

CheChe Lazaro Probes the Fertile Land of Lotus Pod Farm in Bay, Laguna

A man of many hats; early 20th century environmentalist, forester, ecologist, scientist and author Aldo Leopold wrote on his 1949 non-fiction book A Sand County Almanac, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

Known for her gritty investigative journalism that threads the layers of stories she covers like needles, deeper into probing every facets of truth; renowned journalist CheChe Lazaro is taking that same passionate approach as she now follows Leopold’s train of thought - that man should foster a good relationship with the land they dwell on, by advocating organic and backyard farming. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Junction Hostel and the Truck Elevate Backpacker Accommodation and our Favorite Street Foods


I remember it was around five years ago when the growing influx of boutique and affordable hostels started making its presence felt in Metro Manila – giving backpackers decent choices for accommodation. As a budget traveler I have my own shares of hits and misses when it comes to sleeping in hostels. This is the reason why I was so eager to experience Junction Hostel and see if it belongs in the same league as my favorite hostels I stayed at in South East Asia, Sri Lanka and India. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Zambawood: Combining Luxury Beach Accommodation with Special Needs Advocacy

Situated over a vast stretch of beach front property, once a dry land, is a beautiful expanse of 26-hectare farm thriving with lush vegetation, one with a scenic view of the clear sea of Zambales. Tucked within its green surroundings rests a lovely abode that serves as the main artery of ZambawoodFor all its visual gifts showcasing modern architecture design and its stylish interior, there is a remarkable tale of origin that needs to be known. The first time I met Rachel Harrison I immediately noticed the marvel in her eyes while she narrates the inspiration behind Zambawood.

The Zambawood house covers 450 square meters with 4 spacious bedrooms that comes with own bath and shower and air conditioning. The house also includes an indoor and outdoor dining area, a swimming pool plus a TV and gaming room.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Counting UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka


Before my trip to Sri Lanka, I had some trepidation about traveling solo to this teardrop-shaped island nation reeling from a brutal civil war. But the excitement of ascertaining the unfamiliar triumphed over my lingering doubts, and a few days before I head out to Kuala Lumpur for my connecting flight to Colombo, I learned about the “Cultural Triangle.”

The Cultural Triangle is situated in the central part of Sri Lanka and covers an area thriving with UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites showcasing the splendor of the beautiful ruins of the ancient cities of Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Kandy, and Dambulla.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Banquet of Visual Tales from Kerala, India

The state of Kerala is no stranger to being the centerpiece of a spectacular narrative. I remember back in college reading Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things”, in which a town called Ayemenem first brought my imagination to the existence of the famed Kerala backwaters, where intertwining lakes and lagoons running parallel to Malabar Coast offers a different glimpse of life in this tropical part of India. A year removed from my month long exploration of the northern part of India that took me to places in Kolkata, Varanasi, Agra, and New Delhi to the state of Rajasthan and then to Mumbai, I welcome the opportunity of visiting this nation of almost a billion soul for the second time, as part of the #KeralaBlogExpress.

Travel bloggers from all over the globe #KeralaBlogExpress

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reads On the Road


What book ignited the fire under your seat?

As an avid traveler, I can swear at how vital literature has played a part in ratcheting up my craving to travel. There was Paul Theroux’s epic travelogue The Great Railway Bazaar, which made the idea of a long and arduous cross-continent train travel a charming one; or my personal favorite Jack Kerouac, who I singularly credit for inspiring me to a life of wandering, thanks to his spontaneous prose on On the Road. Without these books, I may not have seen much of the world as I have.

Describing the abundant advantages of travel, Saint Augustine was quoted in John Feltham’s English Enchiridion (1799) as saying “the world is a great book, and none study this book so much as a traveler. They that never stir from their home read only one page of this book”—an evocative passage that sums up the ultimate desire of modern-day travelers; to learn and discover whatever exists outside our comfort zones.

Here, fellow travel writers talk about their most memorable reads or the latest book they took with them on the road.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Postcards and Vignettes from Hanoi


Like a cake covered with layers of sugary-coated tastiness, Hanoi’s cultural charms and character are enriched with a diverse set of colonial influences, mainly from the French, which brought a certain European flavor to the city’s architecture, food, and culture. Before the turmoil of a violent war would besiege the whole of Vietnam in the middle of the 20th century, Hanoi represented the “grand statement of French urbanity and civilization in the tropics of Asia.” The vibe of the streets, dotted with charming French-inspired cafes serving freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee, pho soup, and baguette breads, mirrored the Parisian city.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Northern Mission to Calayan Island


Huddled at the roof of our ‘lampitaw’ with other passengers, I sensed my leg muscles cramping a little bit. We’re not yet at the first hour of our six-hour sea journey to Calayan Island and I’m already uneasy with my chosen seating position, numbing my butt over a protruding piece of wood. A few minutes later, we started encountering the unstable waters of the South China Sea. For a moment I dread my recollection of tales of waves as big as a two-story house from happening, but as I stare out to the sea, I notice the steady condition stretched out as far as my eyes can see. Feigning the worse, I regaled at the sight of the Volkswagen-sized breakers battering our lampitaw. “These waves can’t possibly topple our durable boat” I told myself with a swagger and a brief recitation of prayer. 


Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Truth About Verde Passage


  The Philippines has the world's richest marine life, but the question is, for how long?

It is already fascinating to know that the Philippines is considered as the “center of marine biodiversity,” now imagine being at the center of the center. The Verde Island Passage, spanning an area of roughly 1.14 million hectares of sea surrounding the provinces of Batangas, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon, is recognized as the “center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity.”

Verde Island Passage 15

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Witnessing the Visual and Spiritual Spectacle of Varanasi


As a travel writer armed with a camera and intent to document a place as real as possible, there are a few places that stand out and remain within my memory as crystal clear, as if it happened only yesterday. I could still hear the touts bugging me with “Hello boat?” - their way of offering their overpriced boat services along the Ganges River fronting the historic Ghats. For all the annoyance of the tourist trade in Varanasi, the place itself, a visual spectacle, which overflows with spirituality, will make anybody with a camera busy shooting at many fascinating subjects.

Young boys taking part in a morning ceremony along the Ghats

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Brief History of our Hike to a Village in Bangaan Rice Terraces


Years ago I remember dropping my jaw in wonder when I saw the rice terraces of Banaue for the first time. Laid out in front of me are stairways of rice paddies stretching almost infinitely. Since then, I've seen similar ones at Sapa in Northern Vietnam and smaller farm terraces in other provinces. Each opportunity, I find myself achieving a feeling of calm while engrossing the entire visual banquet it brings. Last February, a wonderful opportunity presented itself when I was invited to be a part of the launch of PHILTOA's (Philippine Tour Operator's Association) new travel program called Cordillera Heritage Caravan. In a span of five days, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Banaue, Kiangan and Bangaan clusters of rice terraces. 

Bangaan Rice Terraces Banaue Ifugao 2

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Howrah 8:00 Night Train to Varanasi


"no reservation ticket. No problem" I tell myself as we boarded one of Kolkata's iconic yellow Ambassador cabs. I feel confident that our first experience of India's massive railway system will be a walk in the park. That swagger vanishes when our cab started crawling along the slow traffic over Howrah Bridge, where Aileen and I saw a sea of people dwarfing all other commuter crowds I've ever seen, walking along on both sides of the bridge towards one destination: Howrah Junction Railway Station.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Inside the Walls of Amer Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan


During the height of the Mughal Empire, the invasion of kingdoms are so commonplace, that the Maharaja rulers and their followers defended their own domains madly and as hard as the fortified walls of Forts all over Rajasthan. Amer Fort is one of them. Rising over a scenic lake overlooking a town inhabited many centuries ago by the Meenas before it was taken over by the Kachwahas - in an act termed "as most coward and shameful in history of Rajasthan", The Fort now stands as mightily as ever. Magnificent at its best and architecturally mind-blowing. 

© Nomadic Experiences

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Adoring the Ancient Art and History of the Golden Temple of Dambulla

Consisting of a five-cave monastery perched atop a hill 160 meters high, the impressive ancient structures and paintings found inside the caves gives you a major reason to make the slow uphill hike and see it for yourself. Under the torrid shine of the sun, I work my way, as dozens of monkeys goofed at each other around me at the wide stair trail. I meet other travelers brimming with smiles on their faces - a sign of delight at what they've seen, I figured. Once atop a smiling local guard signaled me to take off my shoes as I prepare to enter the first cave. 

© Nomadic Experiences

Monday, May 25, 2015

Malacañang of the North: Ageing Reminder of a Dark Regime


Being the home province of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who was born in Sarrat - Ilocos Province held almost the same amount of power as the ones enjoyed by the few in Manila. One true representation of it was the symbolic Malacañang of the North - which by any other name, would pass as an ordinary summer house built in true heritage fashion, highlighted by its Spanish colonial architecture. But, the Marcoses as history jotted down is by no means any ordinary family. Being previous owners of this mansion, which sits squarely on a flat green lawn overlooking the tranquil Paoay Lake, makes it a very significant landmark that stood witness to the years, of what many refer to as the dark regime. 

My girlfriend Monnette at the steps of the mansion © Nomadic Experiences

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Northern Roadtrip: The Baroque Church of Paoay

Part of the collective group of Baroque Churches in the Philippines recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, Paoay Church or the Saint Augustine Church has eluded me for the longest time. Twice I have been to the province of Ilocos Norte and both times I went home without catching a glimpse of its massive facade walls. I reckon only a fool would let fly a third opportunity without seeing it up close. 

© Nomadic Experiences

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

If These Thick Walls of Galle Fort Could Talk


It will absolutely narrate to me its rich history dating back to the Portuguese rule of Sri Lanka in the year 1588 when it was first built. Fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century to repel invaders, it has since become one of the most preserved landmarks in the country. Acknowledged for its "urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries", UNESCO granted it a World Heritage Site distinction in 1988.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Adventure Road Leads to Cebu Pacific's #JuanForFun2015 Backpacking Challenge


When people probe me about the source of my wanderlust genes, I always tell them how my father traded any opportunity of travel to playing on casino tables but proudly narrate how my mom went on a few solo trips to Taiwan and Japan during her single-hood years. Sandwiched between decades of raising two children, she would pause to travel until she reaches her late 40’s when she stayed for ten years shuttling between four states in the United States. That is how far my lineage influenced me with traveling. I guess my addiction to life on the road originated from outside interference, such as travel shows and literature - and one catapult period, which I trace back to my college years searching for adventure with the UST Mountaineering Club.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Where to Stay | Siquijor | Coco Grove Beach Resort


During the recently concluded 2015 Cebu Pacific’s Juan for Fun Backpacker’s Challenge Media Edition held in Siquijor Island, the sprawling nature-laden grounds of Coco Grove Beach Resort became our home for three days. Definitely, the fitting island abode to play host to our weary bodies – which were tested with a few action-packed activities, after competing in a day-long mini Amazing Race covering a large part of this so-called Island of Fire (Isla Del Fuego).


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Day at the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa


A day removed from my jaunt to the ancient city of Sigiriya, I am still bursting with excitement in pursuing the second leg of the famed Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is believed to be home to the second oldest of the country's many kingdoms. Today, the city boasts of scattered remnants and ruins of historic palaces, temples, statues and chambers just to name a few and is regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing at the side of the road, I read the brochure on my hand to brush up my knowledge about the place but also to ask a local what bus to take going to Polonnaruwa. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eyeing Taj Mahal from the Thick Walls of Agra Fort


Since we arrived at Agra early in the morning, we've been simmering our overflowing desire to see the Taj Mahal. Aileen and I agreed that we should relax, gorge on local food and see other sights first. Among the places we first visited is the massive UNESCO World Heritage Site; Agra Fort. Standing wide-eyed with admiration near the entrance, I stared at it and imagined myself being a part of the opposing Mughal forces of centuries back. I saw myself nimbly escaping and running away from these marvelous and imposing thick walls. How could one ever penetrate such structure? apparently, during the old feuding times of ancient India's history, many a kingdom and their brave warrior soldiers have succeeded - at the price of countless casualties of course. 

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Where to Stay in Baguio: See the Pine Trees Sway at Arc Residences


Eyeing for a place to stay in Baguio City can become such an ordeal as you will be confronted with options of choosing an expensive but cozy 3 star hotel or run down homestays that charges ridiculous high prices, totally mismatched with its interiors and amount of bed bugs at night. I am not a picky traveler when it comes to lodging on the road, but since I will be traveling with my girlfriend - both budget and comfort becomes necessary requirements in choosing a place to stay.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Metro Hotel Bukit Bintang is a Budget Hotel in the Heart of Kuala Lumpur's Food District

Coming off from an 18 day exploration of the state of Kerala in India, I decided to stay for a few days in Kuala Lumpur before heading back to Manila. My choice of accommodation requires a strategic location close to a food district, the Petronas Towers - which I wanted to see again after 7 years, fits my backpacker budget and a walking distance to train stations. I searched around hotel booking websites until I came across Metro Hotel Bukit Bintang at agoda.com

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Banquet by the Sea in Puerto Princesa, Palawan


I am probably the last of the romantics to be in-the-know about setting up a romantic dinner or lunch at fancy restaurants, but take me to the great outdoors and I can say I know quite a few styles. But during this time, even though I've envisioned a meal by the sea with my girlfriend, the friendly staff Palo Alto Bed & Breakfast did the task of preparing what was a unanimously agreed 'hands down' the best meal we both shared together. Why wouldn't it be the case? a plateful of crab, grilled fish, pinakbet, pork liempo in a private beach spanning a long stretch of white sands all for ourselves. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nomadic Experiences is Going to Kerala


Almost a year since I first step foot in the country of India, fate would have me returning sooner than I've anticipated. You won't be hearing any complains coming my way as I truly embrace this wonderful opportunity. Last December I signed up for the Kerala Tourism Blog Express 2.0 - from which hundreds of travel bloggers from all over the world vied for the 25 - 30 slots through social media voting. Here is where my sackful of gratitude comes in, because of the generous votes of friends, online buddies and a few blog readers, I made it to top 10 and secured an automatic slot at this year's Kerala Blog Express.  

Photo Credit: Kerala Volunteer

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Historical Fort Hopping in India


Sprawled all over India are remnants of its mercurial past filled with stories of conquest, domination and repulsion of enemies. The massive thick walls still standing today represents the saving grace of kingdoms past - led mainly by the many Maharajas, whose mighty grip as rulers transcends and echoes still today, endlessly symbolized by these artistic ruins yet proudly erected Forts - a few of which we conquered on our 25-day jaunt around India. 

Jaipur Amer Fort
Amber Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kolkata: The Grand Marble Structure of Victoria Memorial Hall


Escaping the overpowering energy of Kolkata's streets, we followed the distant sight of the towering dome and statues that lead us to a quiet spot dominated by the sheer grandeur of this grand marble structure, known as the Victoria Memorial Hall. Dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria, this impressive edifice started construction in 1906 and opened to the public in 1921 and now remains as one of the ostentatious remains of the British rule. Today it is one of the city's tourist attraction with a museum that houses historical artifacts of the Victorian era. 

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Where to Stay in Laoag City: Balay da Blas Pension House

Balay da Blas showcases a bipolar architecture character by blending the antiquated era of traditional Ilocano interiors with an expansion wing that houses all modern aesthetics. Coming from an enjoyable stay at the rustic and charming Villa Angela in Vigan City, we keep up with the throwback vibe by asking the caretakers for a similar lodging evoking a similar feel. We were then pointed to this pleasant 13-room bed and breakfast right at the heart of Laoag City. 

Balay da Blas © nomadicexperiences.com