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

December 20, 2015

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.

Kerala Blog Express

Postcard Series: River House | Lanuza

December 15, 2015

Will surely miss this view from the balcony of the River House here in Lanuza. When a surfer dude would  ask me "how long you been surfing?" Unashamed, I’d say "five days in Lanuza"

I've a long way to go as surfing isn't just any other sports where you could learn on the fly, a few days, a number of weeks, a couple of months or even a year. No way Jose Aldo! That’s why I hold those talented surfers with high regard because they earned it in the ocean.

George and Izzy Rafols

Following the Yellow Trail at Camp John Hay | Baguio

December 04, 2015

If there's a more beginner-friendly trail than the hiking path to Mount Maculot’s saddle area in Batangas, then Camp John Hay’s Yellow Trail must be it. The 4.7 kilometer trail descends through a tunnel of pine trees before reaching a ridge where the breathtaking Benguet mountain ranges are framed by a sea of clouds. On a brisk pace, one can complete the trail in under an hour and a half.—thanks to an almost even terrain without the extreme upward slopes.

Boarding One Piece’s Thousand Sunny Pirate Ship in Gamagori | Japan

November 27, 2015


Coinciding with our visit to Gamagōri in the Achi Prefecture is the docking of the pirate ship The Thousand Sunny from the popular Japanese manga series One Piece. As someone who is oblivious to the world of manga, I was fortunate to have gotten a quick recap about the story of the ship from a fellow travel writer Mica, who has previous knowledge about the series. According to her, the Thousand Sunny is the ship acquired by the Straw Hat Pirates—a group of misfits comprising the lead characters of One Piece—that figured prominently in both the manga volumes and the adapted anime series.

Kezia Chretien Romblon

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

November 21, 2015

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.

The Time I Met the Taj Kids | Agra

November 05, 2015
(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. 

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

October 19, 2015

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.

Desert Safari

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

October 17, 2015
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.

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

October 16, 2015

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. 

A Morning Rock Scramble to Taraw Cliff in El Nido | Palawan

October 12, 2015

After a couple of days of island hopping exploring the many white sandy beaches and hidden lagoons of the Bacuit archipelago, another adventure awaited us the next day. The previous night’s rain worried me a bit, as I expect the jagged trail to Taraw Cliff to be extra slippery. Despite being my second time in El Nido, It’ll be my first time to scale Taraw Cliff. Making the short but arduous scramble to the top extra special is the company of my girlfriend Monnette.

Climbing Taraw Cliff in El Nido Palawan

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

October 04, 2015

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. 

Zambawood: Combining Luxury Beach Accommodation with Special Needs Advocacy

September 13, 2015

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 Zambawood. For 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.

Rachel Harrison
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.

Counting UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

September 06, 2015

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"--to which Sigiriya (which I'm familiar to because of the Duran Duran music video for "Save a Prayer") is a part of. 

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.

Kimi Lu

Preserving Traditions at Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University for Art & Culture | India

September 04, 2015


Known for million other things but foremost of all, India is revered for being a land of innumerable and exquisite culture, subculture and tradition. Journeying from state to state, city to city and even from township to township, one can not only recognize the changing landscape of the country but also of its customs and traditional art forms.

Barbara Rotella and Jomie Naynes

A Banquet of Visual Tales from Kerala, India

September 02, 2015

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.

Marky Ramone Go
Travel bloggers from all over the globe #KeralaBlogExpress

Reads On the Road

August 18, 2015
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.

Postcards and Vignettes from Hanoi | Vietnam

August 09, 2015

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.

Kara Santos

Northern Mission to Calayan Island

August 05, 2015

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. 

Monette Santillan surveys the scenery in Calayan Island

The Truth About Verde Passage

July 19, 2015
  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.”

Valian Urag

Embracing Nature at Vythiri Resort | Kerala, India

July 15, 2015


It took a labor strike of some sort to give us a rare downtime during the Kerala Blog Express 2. During our 2-week exploration of the state of Kerala, we traveled from one city to another after a day or two. After ten days, we kind of felt a little travel fatigued—despite enjoying every second of it—and would welcome any pause from our itinerary. Good thing, it happened in a place where we’re billeted in a resort tucked within the lush forest of Vythiri Resort in the town of Wayanad.

Witnessing the Visual and Spiritual Spectacle of Varanasi | India

July 12, 2015

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.

Cheekie Albay
Young boys taking part in a morning ceremony along the Ghats

Hiking to an Old Village in Bangaan Rice Terraces

July 08, 2015

Years ago I remember dropping my jaw in wonder when I saw the rice terraces of Banaue for the first time. A seemingly endless expanse of rice paddies formed like stairways lay out before me. Since then, I've seen similar ones like in 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. 

Howrah 8:00 Night Train to Varanasi

June 30, 2015

"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.

Inside the Walls of Amer Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan

June 18, 2015

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

ATV Riding near Mayon Volcano | Albay

June 14, 2015

They say Mayon Volcano only appear in its full glory only when it likes you. I guess, during my first and second visits here, the mountain wasn’t fond of me. On this trip though, she clearly showed her approval as she appear naked all throughout. With patches of thick clouds quickly passing the tip of her perfect cone-shaped peak, the Mayon blessed us with her presence, as we romped over the lava hardened soil beneath her. Aboard ATV vehicles, we crossed streams of water and careened up and down muddy trails to the echoes of jubilant screams of "Yahoo".

ATV ride in Mayon with Monette Santillan

Postcard Series: She's Dating a Gangster | Albay

June 13, 2015

Every movie with a church scene should be filmed here—the filmmakers of "She's Dating a Gangster" made the right choice—as you have one of the most amazing backdrops you can ask for. This is one of my favorite Spanish Colonial Churches in the country: Daraga Church or Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church (also Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church).

Levy Amosin walking the steps of Daraga Church

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

June 04, 2015

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. 

Ria Jose
Entrance to the Golden Temple

Bantay Church Bell Tower | Ilocos Sur

June 02, 2015

One of the places we visited as part of our Vigan side-trip was the Saint Augustine Parish Church. Commonly known as Bantay Church, it was first constructed on its current site in 1590. The present facade though, was the result of the reconstruction job done in 1950, after it was heavily damaged during World War II. Aside from its Neo-Gothic Architecture that incorporated pseudo-Romanesque elements, the church is also famous for its Belfry situated a short distance from the church.

Bantay Church Bell Tower view of the town

The Saint Augustine Parish Church

Located in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, the Saint Augustine Parish Church is also referred to as the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, and houses the image of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Charity—said to be a miraculous image crowned by the Pope Pius XII as patroness of Ilocandia on January 12, 1956. Originally, the church was built and designed with Baroque architecture and in later years in the late 19th century, was reinforced with thick buttressed walls after it endured numerous destructive earthquakes. This method of strengthening old churches back then earned the Earthquake Baroque architecture label.

with Monette Santillan in front of The Saint Augustine Parish Church

The interior of the church is bare other than the arching steel columns, and a modest altar. The walls are painted white and the big windows allows natural light that keeps the inside appear lighter. Beside the church is a small museum housing old photographs of the church and the town of Bantay. There is also a small courtyard leading to a garden and an outdoor chapel—aptly called Chapel by the Ruins.

The Bantay Belfry of the Bantay Watchtower

Living up to its name Bantay, which translates to ‘guard’ in English, Bantay Belfry sits atop a hill overlooking the quaint town of Bantay. Back in the day, it was constructed on its strategic spot to also serve as a watchtower to defend the town from attacking pirates. During World War II, it was also manned by Filipino Guerilla Fighters and later on by retreating Japanese forces during the peak of the liberation of the Philippines.

Bantay Church Bell Tower in Ilocos Sur

Today, if you look out from one of the Belfry’s windows, you can see the pleasant view of the encircling trees and the piles of white crosses planted on multiple levels of graves laid over at the town's public cemetery.

Film quiz trivia hotshot: The Bantay Watchtower was among the shooting locations of the classic Filipino movie "Ang Panday".

Together with my girlfriend Monette and her two sisters Tuesday and Len, we spent almost an hour just resting and enjoying the view from the Belfry's tower. If it weren't for the arrival of a couple tourists we would have stayed longer as we left a few minutes later to give the two of them some privacy. Plus, we're already famished and craving for Vigan bagnet and pinakbet already.

Full of history and charming architecture, the Bantay Church and Bell Tower is must-see attraction whenever you find yourself in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

How to go to Bantay Church Bell Tower

Take either a slow but calming Kalesa ride or a faster tricycle ride to Bantay Church Bell Tower if you don't fancy taking a 20-minute walk from Vigan City.

Malacañang of the North: Ageing Reminder of a Dark Regime

May 25, 2015

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. 

Malacañang of the North

Northern Pit Stop at Kapurpurawan Rock Formation | Ilocos Norte

May 22, 2015

After a couple of days in Vigan, we proceeded to Laoag in Ilocos Norte where we stayed for another night. We visited various attractions like the Malacañang of the North, the Marcos Museum, and the historic Church of Paoay before capping it off with a wild ride over the sand dunes of La Paz. Mirroring the hectic pace of the contestants of the Amazing Race, we hustled the next day to continue our northern road trip to Pagudpud.

Monnette Santillan

A Northern Roadtrip: The Baroque Church of Paoay

May 19, 2015

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. 

Things to do in Ilocos Norte

If These Thick Walls of Galle Fort Could Talk | Sri Lanka

May 05, 2015

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.

Things to do in Galle

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

April 24, 2015

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.

Where to Stay | Siquijor | Coco Grove Beach Resort

April 21, 2015

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).

A Day at the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa | Sri Lanka

April 15, 2015

A day removed from my jaunt to the ancient city of Sigiriya, I am still bursting with excitement in pursuing the second leg of my exploration 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 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 took out the map I got at the airport hoping to use it in asking a local which bus to take going to Polonnaruwa. 

Sky Gavin

Minus the Horde of Tourists, Maya Bay is the Beach, Beach | Thailand

April 08, 2015


My expectations of Maya Bay had already been tempered before I even landed at Phuket airport since it was nothing like the beach in Danny Boyle's film "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio. Even so, I still look forward to seeing it with the same excitement I had when I first stepped foot on Khao San Road during my first visit to Thailand several years earlier.

Anastazcia Gutierrez

Eyeing Taj Mahal from the Thick Walls of Agra Fort | India

March 31, 2015

Since we arrived in 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. 

Tania Marie Gonzalez

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

March 23, 2015

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.


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

March 21, 2015

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