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

Coron

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

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!!!)

Siquijor

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)

Ubud

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

Komodo

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

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

3 months ago, my friends & I went on a last-minute weekend trip to Siquijor. I consider it a last-minute trip because we booked the tickets a month before (which I normally don’t do) & we made the itinerary few days before our flight.

Siquijor is a small province island located southeast of Negros Island & south of Cebu. People normally refer to the island as the island of sorcery & witchcraft. They say (but I haven’t seen any proof) many locals practice sorcery & folk medicine in the island. I know for a fact the most provinces here in the Philippines have people who practice this, so I don’t see any reason why Siquijor be labeled as such.

Siquijor’s famous Cambugahay Falls 

One of the purposes of this post is to debunk that myth & to show to my readers that there’s more in Siquijor than witchcraft & sorcery. Siquijor is starting to gain attention from foreign & local tourists because of its beautiful landscapes & very accommodating people. I’ve heard amazing stories from my friends who’ve been there so I was happy I was able to experience what they experienced.

Siquijor squad : (L-R) JE, Geof & myself 😎

Another purpose of this trip was to reconnect with our friend JE who is now based in Dumaguete for work. It’s been years since we last saw him so we took advantage of this trip to visit him & spend the weekend in the chill island of Siquijor.

I will layout to you in this post how we went to Siquijor, where we stayed & what places we visited & how much I spent for this trip.

Ticket

Screenshot of my ticket to Dumaguete ✈️

30 days before the trip, Geof & I booked a round-trip air ticket to Dumaguete for only ₱2,013. That airfare is already cheap considering our trip falls on a weekend (Saturday morning to Monday afternoon) & the trip is 30 days away. We’ve planning to go to Dumaguete for quite sometime, so it was nice to finally push through with the plan.

How We Went To Siquijor

There are a few ways to go to Siquijor from Manila – you can fly to either Dumaguete, Cebu or Tagbilaran then take a ferry / fast craft ride to the island. Given we only had the weekend, we took the easiest option. We flew to Dumaguete in the morning, went straight to Dumaguete Port & took the earliest available ferry to Siquijor.

We initially planned to take OceanJet‘s fast craft service but the units used in the Dumaguete-Siquijor route were under maintenance that weekend. We had no choice but to take the 9:30 am Montenegro Ferry to the island. Upon arrival in the island, we took a motorcycle ride to the Larena Port (the other port) to meet our friend JE, who came from a work trip in Tagbilaran.

Our ride from Siquijor Port to Larena Port; Geof tried to vlog while on the road 😂

The Bruce Resort

Our plan was to spend the 3 days & 2 nights in Siquijor but JE had to go back to go Dumaguete on Sunday night for following day work commitments. We agreed to just stay there for 2 days & 1 night. My friend JE recommended that we stay in Bruce Resort in San Juan.

Our triple room in Bruce Resort

We got ourselves a triple fan room for ₱1,200 per night (without breakfast). The room is a few meters from the beach. It comes with 1 double & 1 single bed with private toilet (with towels & toiletries). Guests can also refill their water bottles for free. This resort is strategically located in San Juan, it’s in the middle of all the major tourist spots. The resort also had a swimming pool which we were not able to use.

Bruce Resort’s beach 😍

Accommodation choices in Siquijor vary; you can find luxury & budget resorts, hostels & homestays in the island. Make sure to choose the type of accommodation that suits you. If you are looking for a budget & nice place to stay, I’ll recommend The Bruce Resort in San Juan, Siquijor.

Siquijor Coastal Tour

Siquijor is only a small island. If you are coming from Dumaguete or South of Cebu, you can actually go there in the morning, explore for the day & go back in the afternoon. The island’s most popular tour is the coastal tour. The most convenient way for small groups to take this tour is to rent a tricycle for a day for ₱1,000. The rate is directed by the local tourism office, so expect that all tricycles will offer the same price. We arrived late on our first day so we decided to split up the coastal tour into 2 days, also to have more time in each place. We went to the following places:

St. Francis of Assisi Church

The St. Francis of Assisi Church, commonly known as the Siquijor Church, is the very first landmark you’ll see upon stepping out of the Siquijor Port. The parish was established in February 1, 1973. Just like any other church made during the Spanish colonial era, this was also made of stone.

Larena Triad Coffee Shop & Restaurant

View from the restaurant 😍

This coffee shop & restaurant was the place we had lunch after meeting up with JE. Situated on the top of a hill, this place offers a panoramic view of the coasts & the sea. From the view deck, you can see the islands of Cebu, Negros & of course, Siqujor. Food was unexpectedly good & was reasonably priced.

Guiwahon Mangrove Park

This mangrove park has a man-made wooden track / bridge between mangroves. They also have cottages for rent if tourists decide to stay for a few hours. I forgot to ask for the cottage rental rates (sorry). Guests are required to register & pay ₱10 entrance fee.

Enchanted Balete Tree

The enchanted balete tree is a 400-year old tree located along the national road in Lazi. A visit to the tree premises is free; but the place also offers a fish spa for only ₱10 per person.

San Isidro Labrador Church

The San Isidro Labrador Church or Lazi Church is the largest & oldest Church in Siquijor. It was built in 1884 using stone & wood.

Inside Lazi Church ⛪

San Isidro Labrador Convent

The San Isidro Labrador Convent is situated in front of the Lazi Church. This is a museum of historical artifacts & antiques. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when we were there.

Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls is a three-tiered cascading falls with clear water coming from natural springs & rainwater. The falls is 100+ steps down from the main road. The highlight of visiting this place is trying their Tarzan swings – hanging in the man-made vine & jumping into the water. There are 3 swings (with different heights); each swing costs ₱40 but you get unlimited tries. We stayed for more than 2 hours in this place & had more jumps than we expected – definitely our favorite in this trip.

Tip: Best to hire a guide that will take you around the falls. The guide will also serve as your photographer when you jump into the falls. They don’t have a prescribed rate; but I think it’s best to give them ₱100-₱200.

Salagdoong Beach

Salagdoong Beach is located in the small town of Maria, Siquijor. Located a few downhill minutes from the main road, this place is famous for its cliff diving spot, rock formations & a nice white sand beach. The resort has a restaurant where you can have your lunch. They also have cottages for rent & rooms for overnight accommodation. Entrance fee to the resort is ₱25 per person. Make sure to conquer your fear & try cliff diving. I tried it twice & it was hell of fun!

View from the cliff diving spot 😍

Tip: Do not go here on a weekend, especially on a Sunday. Locals usually go here for Sunday family excursions. We were there on a Sunday & the place was crowded.

Two other tourist spots we missed out (due to time constraints) in the coastal tour are Calipay Spring Park, a public natural spring made by the local government for the locals & visitors, & Paliton Beach, one of the nice beaches in the island.

Cebu Detour

After enjoying a nice late lunch & afternoon in Salagdoong Beach, we went back to Siquijor Port to buy tickets for the last ferry trip to Dumaguete. Upon arrival in the port, we found out that Ocean Jet still doesn’t have trips & all the other trips were fully booked. It was a blessing in disguise we were with JE – he knew another way of going back to Dumaguete, via Liloan in Cebu.

View from the ferry en route to Liloan, Cebu

We immediately went to the other port in Larena & got tickets for the 5:00 pm ferry trip to Liloan, Cebu. The slow ferry ride took us about 2 hours. Upon arrival in Liloan Port, we took the tricycle to the fast craft terminal to Sibulan. Thank God we made it to the last trip for the day at 7:30 pm. The trip to Sibulan Port (located in the town beside Dumaguete City) took us 30-40 minutes. We were back in Dumaguete before 9:00 pm.

Dumaguete City Side Trip

We only had 1 night & 1 morning in Dumaguete so we weren’t able to go to the nearby attractions like Manjuyod Sand Bar, Casaroro Falls & Apo Island. We only stayed in the city in our short stay. Upon arrival in the city, we headed to the Sans Rival Bistro to have dinner.

Dinner with the boys at Sans Rival Bistro

After dinner, JE took us around the city. He showed us the church, the boulevard (like Manila’s Baywalk), the city church & bell tower, the city & provincial halls, the malls (haha) & other notable establishments. Then, we went to Golden Gate Suites to check in, leave our stuff & freshen up. We went out for coffee at midnight before we finally dozed off.

Our room in Golden Gate Suites, Dumaguete City

The following morning, we went out for breakfast at Cafe Mamia & dropped by Sans Rival Bistro to buy some treats for families & friends back home. We went back to the hotel & spent the rest of the morning there before heading to the airport for our flight to Manila.

A trip to Dumaguete will never be complete w/o buying the famous silvanas! 😋

Summary of Expenses

Everything might last-minute for this trip, but let’s have a look at how much I spent for the entire trip.

Spending ₱6,836 for a Siquijor weekend getaway (airfare included) is not bad. The airfare was definitely a bargain, considering it was booked 30 days before the trip. We obviously spent more on food but it was all good. We didn’t have enough time to explore more of Dumaguete but I look forward to visiting the city again soon.

Until our next trip! 😊

My friend Geof made vlogs about this weekend trip! Make sure to check  his Day 1 vlog & Day 2 vlog. Don’t forget to subscribe to his channel for more travels & adventures.

Have you been to Siquijor? How was your visit to the beautiful island? Are you planning to go there soon? I think you should! Feel free to post your questions in the comments section below. You can also send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Drop me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

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