2017 In Review: Discovering The Known & The Unknown

In less than 2 days, 2017 will come to a close. Another great & memorable year will soon come to an end. Before we welcome 2018, let us look back how this year went. I do not consider this a major travel year because I think every year is a major travel year for me.

My solo travel adventures, which started in 2016, continued this year. I went to most places all by myself & then met amazing people whom I shared good memories with. I also had the chance to reunite & travel with good old friends.

Selfie with Broken Beach in the background 📷

In 2016, I went to places which are known to most of you (perhaps except Koh Lipe). These places gave me unforgettable experiences & different insights. 2017 was a bit different. I’ve been to known places like Coron, Taipei & Ubud, but I’ve also visited unknown places (to many Filipinos) like Port Barton, Nusa Penida & Komodo. 2017 was a year of discovering the known & the unknown.

Let us rediscover the the known & unknown places I visited for 2017.

Port Barton

Port Barton’s village beach

My first solo trip for 2017 happened in March where I spent a weekend in Port Barton. It is a small undeveloped village in the northeast coast of Palawan. It is a more basic version of El Nido.

Enjoyed the tour to untouched islands & pristine beaches 😍

Everything in the village is limited – from accommodation choices, restaurants, electricity to mobile network access. These limitations didn’t hinder me from enjoying a weekend away from the busy city life. I went on an island tour which took me to untouched islands & pristine beaches. I had my first close encounter with a turtle in German Island. I also made good memories with people I met on the tour & in the hostel.

Close encounter with a turtle in German Island 🐢

Blog: PORT BARTON: Palawan’s Secret Paradise


I had my second Palawan weekend trip for 2017 in Coron. I decided to go there during the Labor Day weekend (to save work leave credits) & booked my round-trip tickets using my GetGo (Cebu Pacific Air‘s loyalty program) points.

Met these amazing people in Coron

I walked around the town & hiked Mount Tapyas on my first day. I took the Ultimate Island Tour on my second day & the Island Escapade Tour on my third day. I flew back to Manila on the fourth day.

Coron’s crystal clear waters 😍

I prefer the escapade tour over the ultimate tour. I think Kayangan Lake, Siete Picados & Twin Lagoon were really beautiful; however, these places were super crowded. I enjoyed the relaxed & laid-back escapade tour to the jaw-dropping Malcapuya, Banana & Bulog Dos Islands.

Malcapuya Island – the highlight of this Coron trip 😍

Blog: CORON – Paradise Beyond Words


Taipei was my first international trip for 2017. It was also my first time to use my renewed passport. I’ve been to this city in 2015 with my high school friends. This time, I went on another weekend trip with my work colleagues.

Taipei ’17 buddies – Rona & Shiela 😎

We went to the usual places like Taipei 101, Ximending, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Liberty Square, Shilin Night Market & 228 Peace Park. We also went up north to the countryside to visit Shifen & Jiufen.

Colorful vibe of Jiufen 😍

We loosened up a bit by joining TourMeAway‘s Pub Crawl Activity. It was a long fun drinking night with people from all over the world. Our pub crawl photo even made it to the activity’s Klook page. I also got my new HTC U11 during this trip – definitely worth the investment.

Got a new phone in Taipei -the HTC U11

BlogTAIPEI Revisited: 3-Day Weekend in the Heart of Asia (Less than ₱15,000 all in!!!)


I went on a last-minute weekend Siquijor trip with friends last July. I flew to Dumaguete with a friend & boarded the next ferry to Siquijor. We then met another friend in Siquijor & started exploring the island.


Reunion with Geof & JE in Siquijor

We had lunch at Larena Triad Restaurant overlooking the island, went exploring at the Guiwahon Mangrove Park, (they) had fish spa in the century old balete tree, walked around the Lazi Convent & Church, jumped off (a number of times) the famous Cambugahay Falls & enjoyed some lazy (except me who tried the cliff diving) afternoon at Salagdoong Beach.

Cambugahay Falls – the highlight of my Siquijor trip 💦

We had a short Dumaguete side trip; we stayed there for a night before our flight back to Manila. Our friend, who is based there, took us on a late night city tour (?? haha) just to see how it looks like.

BlogLast-Minute SIQUIJOR Weekend (For Less Than ₱7,000 Including Airfare)


Explored Ubud with Mary Ann & Lyza

I spent half of my annual birthday month trip in Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. I’ve been to Ubud in 2014 but I didn’t have enough time to explore the place. I went back for 3 full days to explore different temples, hike up & down the rice terraces, eat the famous crispy duck, walk around the town, tried the luwak coffee in a coffee plantation & go to the waterfall.

World famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces 😍

I also attended a cooking class with Paon Bali. I learned to prepare local dishes & ended up eating them as well after. This Paon Bali Cooking Class was the highlight of my Ubud visit.

Local food we ate after the cooking class 😋

BlogThe Wonderful Indonesia Series: UBUD – From Temples To Rice Paddies

Nusa Penida

Instagram-famous Broken Beach 😍

The other half of my week-long birthday trip was spent in a relatively unknown off Bali called Nusa Penida. For 2 straight days, I hopped on a motorcycle & explored this untouched island.

Atuh Beach – a cove between 2 cliffs 😍

I went to ‘Instagram-famous’ places like Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach & Kelingking Secret Point. I also went to the hidden Crystal Bay for swimming & relaxation. On my 2nd & last day, I spent the whole day in Atuh Beach, another ‘Instagram-famous’ cove that is between 2 high cliffs.

Another Instagram-famous – Kelingking Secret Point 😍

I stayed in Kuta for a night before my early flight back to Manila. I’ve been to this place in 2015 but I still walked around the crowded beach & waited for the beautiful Kuta sunset.

Kuta sunset – what a beautiful view to end this week long birthday trip 🌅

BlogThe Wonderful Indonesia Series: NUSA PENIDA – Hidden Paradise Off Bali


Kanawa Island 😍

Two months after spending a week in Indonesia, I decided to fly back & sneak out a short weekend trip to Labuan Bajo. This small village / town is the gateway for the more famous Komodo National Park (Komodo Island).

Worth the 30-minute hike up the mountain 😍

I took the shared overnight boat trip to the islands. The islands were hours away from each other by slow boat. On the first day, we went snorkeling on Kanawa Island, swam with the manta rays in Manta Point & hiked up Padar Island for some amazing views. We parked somewhere near Komodo Island & stayed there for the night. The boatmen prepared all our meals while on the boat. We slept under the stars & clear skies.

Ha, once in a lifetime photo with a Komodo dragon 🦎

The following day, we walked around in Komodo Island to spot Komodo dragons, went snorkeling & swimming in Pink Beach & spotted some wildlife on Rinca Island (more Komodo dragons lol). Our boatmen allowed us to snorkel & jump off the boat in a random snorkeling point right before going back to Labuan Bajo.

Met up for dinner with the people I was with in the overnight boat trip

Blog: To Follow

Tokyo & Kawaguchiko

Dinner in Tokyo with Laura & Leon (former HTC people) & Kristin

The week-long trip to Japan was my last trip for 2017. It was not my first time (I’ve been there in 2015 & in 2016) so I decided to explore the not-so-famous areas like Kawaguchiko. I flew to Tokyo in the morning, then I met Laura & Leon (people I met in HTC Elevate years ago) in late afternoon until evening.

Picture-perfect Mount Fuji 🗻😍

The following day, I took the bus to Kawaguchiko where I stayed for 2 full days. I met good friends in the hostel which I went around the place with. We went up to Mt. Fuji 4th Station, walked around Kawaguchiko town & we even went cycling around Lake Kawaguchiko. I saw Mt Fuji at its finest (a lot of times!!) during my short stay in this quiet town.

Cycled around Lake Kawaguchiko with these guys 🚴

Blog: To Follow

Takayama & Shirakawa-go

Takayama Old Town 🏠

After spending 2 days in Kawaguchiko, I took a 5-hour bus ride to Takayama. Takayama is a city that is located in the rural, mountainous Hida region in Gifu Prefecture. Just like any other Japanese rural centers, the city retains traditional character. This is shown in the preserved old town. I walked around the old town & the city for one whole day. I was able to visit various temples & museums along the way. I also tried the famous Hida beef in one of the restaurants near JR Takayama Station.

Hida beef for lunch 😋

I went on a half day side trip to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the foot of Mt. Haku-san. Located about an hour away from Takayama, this old village is characterized by gassho-style farmhouses. I spent 3 hours walking around the village, hopping from one house to the other.

Shirakawa-go from the view point 😍

The visits to Takayama Old Town & Shirakawa-go were the highlights of my stay in Gifu Prefecture.

Gassho-style farmhouse in Shirakawa-go 😍

Blog: To Follow

The list above doesn’t account the number of times I went to my hometown in Albay for family functions & random weekends. I plan to continue going home (every few months) to my parents in 2018. There’s definitely no place like home.

Picturesque Mayon Volcano 🌋 There’s no place like home 😍

The trips above pretty much sum up my 2017. It was a year of discovering known places like Coron, Taipei & Ubud, to not-so-known places like Siquijor & Kawaguchiko & to relatively unknown places like Port Barton, Nusa Penida, Komodo & Takayama. It was another year full of memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. I already have a few trips planned for 2018 & I look forward to exploring more of what this beautiful world has to offer.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11

The Wonderful Indonesia Series: UBUD – From Temples To Rice Paddies

Hey you, I hope you’re having a great day so far. It’s been a while since I talked about my recent trips; I think the last post was about my Siquijor weekend in July. Fret not, I am here again to talk about my recent trips to the wonderful country of Indonesia. I went on a week-long trip to Bali last August & just a few weeks ago, I went on a 5-day trip to Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara Province. I will talk about these trips in 3 posts; these posts will be under a series called The Wonderful Indonesia Series.

This year, I went to Bali, Indonesia for my annual birthday trip!

For the past years, I’ve always celebrated my birthdays in different places, far from the busy metro life. The trips don’t have to fall on my birthday but at least it has to be within the month of August. So far, I’ve celebrated my birthday in Boracay, El Nido (twice) & Krabi, Thailand & recently in Bali, Indonesia. 🇮🇩

I’ve been to Bali in 2015 with N9 (my college blockmates) but the island is so big we only went to the usual touristy places. We didn’t have enough time to explore Ubud (only the Ubud Monkey Forest & our villa); primarily the reason I decided to go back. Ubud is Bali’s center of traditional arts & culture. Located in the mountains, this town features the iconic rice paddies, beautiful traditional shrines & temples & untouched rain forests.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces – one of the places I missed last time I was in Bali

I spent the 1st 3 days going around Ubud area. My colleague, Mary Ann, was also Bali when I arrived. We decided to explore Ubud together for a day before we headed to our respective hotels. I will tell you more about what I did & where I went below.


My plan was to take a 10-day trip from 19 August to 28 August, putting the 2 long weekends in one trip. The ticket prices were super expensive on these dates; thus I had to push it back to 17 August to 23 August (7 days). The ticket I got arrives in Bali but leaves for Manila from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Cebu Pacific Air ticket cost me ₱4,065.23. Still affordable, right?

My ticket from Manila to Bali & Kuala Lumpur to Manila

Cebu Pacific Air doesn’t offer Bali to Manila flights during Wednesdays so I had to drop by Kuala Lumpur on my way back home. Normally, I would go with Air Asia or Malaysia Airlines but their flight schedules don’t coincide with my KUL-MNL flight. I decided to try Malindo Air, a Malaysia-based boutique airline which is part of the Lion Air Group. I got my one way ticket for 799,999 IDR which was around ₱3,200++. I still got a good deal with Malindo considering it included 30 kg baggage allowance, in flight entertainment & lunch. The check-in process wasn’t that organized (they only had 2 counters for 150++ passengers) but the flight itself was OK. I was so happy we arrived in Kuala Lumpur on time.

Malindo Air flight details from Bali to Kuala Lumpur


I mentioned in my earlier Bali blog that the island does not have an organized public transportation system. It doesn’t have a subway / train system. It’s public buses run only a few times a day. The only convenient way to go around the island is via organized tours, private cars & motorcycles.

Private car hires booked with Klook

On our 1st day, my friends & I decided to rent a car from Klook for ₱1,675. This 10-hour car rental included petrol, driver & parking fees. This car took us from Kuta to Ubud & around Ubud that day. On the 3rd day, I also got another car from Klook but this time for only ₱1,463 (cheaper because of discounts & vouchers). I used this car to fetch me in Ubud, bring me to different temples & shrines then to Mount Kintamani & back to my hostel in Kuta.

Met up with Mary Ann & Lyza who were also in Bali


It’s been a while since I stayed in a private room during trips. I was on my birthday trip & I thought I deserved a treat; I got myself a private room in Ubud for 2 nights. I booked my stay in The Jero Ubud through Booking.com.

My double bed in The Jeru Ubud

The accommodation is along one of the busy streets in Ubud – Jalan Hanoman. I got the 2 nights for 522,500 IDR; that’s 261,250 IDR per night. The rate includes a double room with a spacious bed, private toilet & own balcony. It also includes breakfast & free Wi-Fi access. Service was top-notch; they may not have a tour desk but they helped me with all the information I need. The staff were super nice as well; they never fail to greet me every time I pass by the reception.

Location was perfect; the surroundings were quiet considering the accommodation is in a very busy street. It is near to almost everything in Ubud Centre. The monkey forest, Ubud temple & market were a few meters walk from The Jero Ubud. There is also a nearby supermarket in case you need some goods / personal stuff.

Beautiful external designs of the rooms in The Jero Ubud

The buildings showcase intricate Balinese architectural designs & the area is surrounded by landscaped grounds. I didn’t stay in a 5-star accommodation but the service & hospitality I got was for a 5-star one. The amount I paid for my 2-night stay was super worth it. I will definitely stay here again when I decide to go back to Ubud.

Where I Went & What I Did

Ubud is a small town in the heart of Bali. It’s not as big as Denpasar or as developed as Kuta / Seminyak, this town has some unique places to visit & experiences to offer. Let me tell you where I went & what I did in my 3 day stay in Ubud.

Bali Swing

Bali Swing is a small place off Ubud where you get into a swing (of choice) & have an amazing view of the forest, rice fields & mountains in front of you. There is an entrance fee of $2 which includes unlimited drinks (water & soda) & traditional snack (Balinese cake). If you want to try the swing, you need to pay another $20. The facility has 5 swings of different heights. I did not try the swing because I thought it was expensive; I just watched my friends try it. They say the experience was superb! Make sure to go here in the morning; it tends to get crowded in the afternoon. The queue to try the swing could take longer than expected.

Lunch at Bebek Bengil Crispy Duck Restaurant

We ordered the famous crispy duck, some vegetables & rolls

We had lunch at the famous Bebek Bengil Restaurant in Ubud. This place is famous for its dirty duck dish. The food is a little expensive for those travelling on budget but I believe it was worth the try. The crispy duck (& the other dishes we ordered) were really good. Food servings were bigger than we expected. The restaurant has a very relaxing ambiance – with gardens, ponds & rice fields within the place.

Rice plantation at rear of the restaurant

Tegenungan Waterfall

Located 30 minutes from Ubud centre, the Tegenungan Waterfall is a hidden village gem in Tegenungan Kemenuh town in Gianyiar. The first thing you need to do upon arriving is to pay 10,000 IDR entrance fee per person. Then you take a few steps down to a natural stream where you can have a dip (the water is so clear but very cold). You can go down further to see the waterfall.

The water current is strong; people were not advised to go near the waterfall. Many people visit this waterfall so you need to plan the time you’ll go. There was a rainbow in the waterfall during our visit. Cool stuff.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

There are 2 famous rice terraces off Ubud – Tegallalang Rice Terraces & Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. I wanted to visit both terraces but the latter is about 1.5-2 hours from Ubud (really far!!). I decided to just visit the accessible one. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces offers a panoramic view of the famous rice paddies. Visitors are also allowed to go down, walk around & take pictures of the rice paddies. Entrance to the rice terraces is free.

Paon Bali Cooking Class (includes Ubud Market Tour)

I didn’t have anything planned for my 2nd day in Ubud so I checked TripAdvisor for recommendations. Puspa’s Paon Bali Cooking Class is the number 1 to-do in Ubud. Without hesitations, I booked the morning cooking class including a market tour. The whole cooking class, including pick-up & drop off in the hotel, costs 350,000 IDR. I know it’s a bit expensive but the experience was amazing.

Ubud Market tour

Puspa, the owner of Paon Bali, telling us how they started the cooking class

It all started with the Ubud Market tour. They showed us the ingredients that will be used later in the class. We then took a 30-minute ride to the rice paddies then to Paon Bali’s facility. We were about 20+ in the class. They taught us to cook 6 traditional dishes & 1 dessert. Everyone had the chance to cook portions of each dish. All small portions were then mixed up to make one big dish. 

Some of the dishes we prepared – tempeh, mixed vegetables & gado-gado

Such a good lunch! Everything was made from scratch.

They organized everything for us. We cooked a lot of food (we even had leftovers). All the dishes were so good. The experience was authentic. Shout out to Puspa for this wonderful experience. I definitely recommend taking this cooking class when in Ubud – you’ll surely have a great time.

Walk Around Ubud Town

One of the many nice Balinese designs you’ll see when you walk around the town

After eating a lot in the cooking class, I decided to go for a walk around the Ubud town. Aside from seeing shops, restaurants & tour agencies, you will see different private temples all over the town. I think almost each house has its own temple. You will meet random locals & visitors along the way. I had a nice walk around the town.

Pura Gunung Kawi

Rock cut shrines surrounding the temple

I decided to go up northeast to Kintamani area on my last day in Ubud. Our first stop was Pura Gunung Kawi. It is an ancient temple located along the Pakerisan River in the town of Tampaksiring. The unique feature of this temple is the 10-rock cut shrines carved in the cliffs. There are also rice paddies at the eastern part of the temeple complex, just before the big shrines.

Pura Tirta Empul

People taking a bath in the natural spring

Natural spring from the mountain

Pura Tirta Empul is a temple complex & holy mountain spring also located along the Pakerisan River. This temple is famous for the purification baths, pools & fish ponds. The water from the mountains flow through this temple then down to Pura Gunun Kawi.

Segara Windhu Coffee Plantation

Free coffee & tea!!

A big portion of Mount Kintamani is used for coffee production. This is why one will see a number of coffee plantations along the main road. I decided to stop by Segara Windhu Coffee Plantation. Upon entering the place, a staff welcomed me & explained the coffee production process in Mount Kintamani. She also showed me different flavors of coffee & tea plus the famous civet coffee. I tried the coffee & tea flavors they produce (for free). After finishing up the free taste, visitors can drop by the shop if they want to buy some homegrown products. Note that these products are expensive.

View from the coffee plantation’s tasting area

Lunch in Mount Kintamani

View of Mount Batur from Mount Kintamani

I didn’t have the time to take the Mount Batur sunrise trek so I told my driver I’d like to see the volcano even from afar. He brought me to a local buffet restaurant overlooking Mount Batur. The buffet lunch cost 110,0000 IDR per person. I was there right before Mount Batur was covered with clouds. The perfect time to visit the area is before lunch up to around 1:00 pm.

Indonesian lunch buffet while watching Mount Batur being covered with clouds

One Night in Kuta

After having lunch in Mount Kintamani, I decided to go to my hostel in Kuta. The long drive took us about 2 hours (including traffic). I stayed in Lokal Bali Hostel, a relatively newly opened hostel near the Ngurah Rai International Airport. I stayed in this hostel because of its outstanding reviews. I also needed a place to stay before I head to Nusa Penida the following day.

The best hostel in Bali. Hands down!

I paid 158,760 IDR for a night’s stay (I know it’s a little expensive) in a 6-bed dormitory room. The rate includes free Wi-Fi access, access to the hostel’s swimming pool, toiletries & a bottle of water. The hostel staff were super nice & helpful. It felt like home when I was there. The hostel owners also hosted a free taco dinner & a bottle of tequila during my stay. I met some amazing people from all over the world & spent some good times with them up until midnight. The following morning, I left the hostel for my next destination, Nusa Penida.

A hostel with a pool? Yes!

Watch out for the next post about my 48-hour stay in the beautiful island of Nusa Penida!

More of Tegallalang Rice Terraces

Have you been to Ubud in Bali? How was your experience? What was your favorite spot or experience? Feel free to share your thoughts & experiences to me & to all the readers by posting a comment below. You can also send an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Drop me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Thank you for reading & see you in Nusa Penida!

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11.