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

Throwback Thursday Treat: Third Time Fun in El Nido

It’s been over a month since my last trip blog post. I am very sorry I haven’t posted anything; I’ve been busy with work & personal stuff. I had several birthday celebrations; I’ve also been just back from a week in Bali & a weekend in my hometown in Albay. I hope everyone is doing well. I promise to keep up with all the content planned for the past weeks.

Anyway, back to business. It’s Thursday, so it’s time for another Throwback Thursday Treat! It’s been a year since my high school friends & I spent a long weekend in El Nido, Palawan (my 3rd time). I think it’s a good time to relive the good times we had in that short weekend trip.

View from El Nido town 😍

Airfare

Philippine Airlines had their annual Christmas sale last December 2015. I was able to book a round-trip ticket to Puerto Princesa City for only ₱1,636. The fare included a 10 kg check-in baggage allowance per way & in-flight snack. Not bad, right?

Screenshot of my ticket to & from Puerto Princesa, Palawan

All the while, the plan was to go to El Nido / Port Barton alone for a weekend, but my high school friends decided to join me on that same weekend. We had plans of going to El Nido but I never thought it will be during this trip that we’ll go there. At least, I didn’t have to enjoy paradise by myself.

Trip to El Nido

2 friends flew to Puerto Princesa days earlier & went around the city for a day & a half. Junelle & I flew on the same afternoon, but with via different airlines. Upon arrival in Puerto Princesa, we immediately went to our friend’s hotel located a few meters from the airport.

Upon arrival at Puerto Princesa International Airport

We had dinner at Kinabuch’s Grill & Bar in Puerto Princesa before heading to the bus terminal to catch the last night bus to El Nido. The air conditioned bus left at 9:00 pm & arrived in El Nido at around 2:30 in the morning. We headed to our respective accommodations & slept for the rest of the morning.

Accommodation

I already booked my accommodation right before my friends booked their flights. I got a dormitory bed in El Nido’s newest (that time) hip hostel – Spin Designer Hostel. I booked via Booking.com; the nightly rate includes a bed in a 4-bed dormitory room with toiletries & breakfast. I paid ₱2,750 for 4 nights.

Each guest is provided a room key card, a spacious bed & locker. Guests have access to common shower & toilet facilities. Wi-Fi is only available in common areas (not sure if they have given access up to the rooms). The hostel also organizes day trips & night activities like acoustic nights, sports nights, barbecue nights, etc. The common areas were well-designed & spacious. The hostel is very social; it’s very easy to meet & connect with new people.

The staff were one of the nicest & the most helpful I’ve met. The hostel is also secured with guards on duty 24/7 on both gates. If you are alone & keen on meeting new people, Spin Designer Hostel is the hostel for you. Make sure to book your stay early as they are usually fully-booked.

Note: My friends stayed in a different accommodation because there were no other beds available in Spin Hostel.

Nacpan Beach Day 1

We hired 2 tricycles for ₱1,200 each for a day trip to Nacpan Beach. We left around 10:00 in the morning & decided to stay there up until 4:00 in the afternoon. It was supposed to be a day of relaxation, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was raining most of the afternoon. We still had fun in the beach despite the heavy rainfall.

‘Habang umuulan’ photo with Junelle 😂

We headed to Las Cabanas Beach to watch the sunset, but it wasn’t at its best. The sky was cloudy; you could barely see the sunset. We went back to our respective accommodations to freshen up. We met up at 7:00 pm to have dinner at Trattoria Altrove, a known Italian restaurant in town.

Tour A Island Hopping Tour

Tour A is a must when in El Nido. It is my 3rd time to visit this place & I still go back for this tour. For the third time, I took Tour A – an island hopping day tour which goes to different lagoons & beaches in Bacuit Bay.

We booked the tour in the agency partner of our Nacpan tricycle driver. The tour is priced at ₱1,200 but we got ours for ₱1,100 each because we were a group of 4. Our driver picked us up at 8:00 am & we went straight to the beach. We left the town at 8:30 am & enjoyed the tour around the islands until 4:00 pm. Here are the places we visited:

Small Lagoon

Secret Lagoon

Snorkelling somewhere near Miniloc Island

Shimizu Island (also the place where we had lunch)

Big Lagoon

Seven Commando Beach

Nacpan Beach Day 2

We had a little debate whether we’ll take Tour C or go to Nacpan Beach again for our 3rd day. We wanted to relax a bit so we went for the latter. The weather was perfect & the beach was at its best! I’ll let the photos show how relaxing the place was.

Nacpan & Calitang Twin Beach 😍

Last Day

Right before eating lunch in Badjao Seafront Restaurant 

We took the 8:00 am Camarih Transport shuttle back to Puerto Princesa; dropped by the pasalubong center to get some goodies for families & friends back in Manila; ate lunch at Badjao Seafront Restaurant (a must-eat restaurant in Puerto Princesa) & headed to the airport for our flights back to Manila.


It was short but fun weekend trip with my high school friends. We’ve been to different places & countries & I think this El Nido was one of the best trips we had. We don’t have anything planned for our next trip (ehem); I hope we get to decide where we’ll go next & when will that be. I could travel the whole world with these people.

El Nido ’16 crew group photo 😊

If you haven’t read it yet, I already blogged about my past 2 El Nido trips – March 2014 trip & 2014 Birthday Weekend. Have you been to El Nido recently? Any notable changes in infrastructure, island hopping tour costs, etc? Feel free to let me know by putting some comments 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.

The world-famous Big Lagoon during low tide

Curious how I booked my super duper cheap round-trip ticket to Puerto Princesa? Don’t worry, I got you covered. Head over to this post (and this post too) to know more.

‘Til the next throwback Thursday post! 😉

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re.

CORON – Paradise Beyond Words

A month ago, during the Labor Day long weekend, I flew to Busuanga, Palawan for a quick trip with my backpack, phone, wallet & HTC Re camera. Fine, I went all by myself. I spent 4 days & 3 nights in a paradise called Coron.

View from my airplane seat minutes before landing in Busuanga Airport

I’ve been to Palawan a few times – Puerto Princesa (November 2012), El Nido (March 2014, August 2014 & August 2016) & Port Barton (March 2017) – but I’ve never been to Coron. My friends kept on telling me to visit this beautiful place, but I could not find affordable plane tickets to the island. I don’t know the reason why airfare to Busuanga is always expensive, most of the time more expensive than a round-trip ticket to a nearby international destination.

I was lucky to find a good airfare deal to Busuanga (USU) last February (about 2 months before the trip) so I didn’t hesitate to book it. I will elaborate more on the trip details – ticket, accommodation & tours – below.

Ticket

My super duper cheap plane ticket to Coron!

The good deal I mentioned earlier was using my GetGo Points, Cebu Pacific Air’s lifestyle rewards program. I got my Manila-Busuanga-Manila ticket for 10,140 GetGo points & ₱1,068.12 worth of taxes & airline fees. I know that’s quite a lot of points, but I don’t have anything to use it for anyway so I grabbed the chance. For everyone’s information, the regular round-trip ticket (same flights) costs around ₱13,500+ at the time of booking. I was able to save more than ₱12,000 by using my points. Great deal, right?

Tip: Head over to this post (& this post too) on how you can increase your chances of getting low fare tickets like I did for this Coron trip.

Accommodation

As mentioned in a recent blog post, I’ve been staying in accommodations with dormitory rooms & nice communal areas. I’ve read around different booking & review sites & found Seahorse Guesthouse as the best option.

Seahorse Guesthouse’ reception area

I booked with Agoda & got my 3-night stay for only ₱1,773.13. Rate is a few hundreds cheaper than that on the website (₱750 per night as per the website). I stayed in an air-conditioned dormitory room for 4 people. Each room has its own shower & toilet area. Each guest is given a spacious & a comfy bed with pillow & sheets, reading light & a locker with a padlock (included). For such an affordable price, guests are also given free breakfast (choice between American breakfast & Filipino breakfasts – tocino / corned beef with rice, egg & banana + coffee / tea).

My spacious bed for 3 nights

The hostel has a communal lounge area (also the breakfast area) at the rooftop where you can meet & talk to other travellers. It is also the best place to use the guesthouse’s free Wi-Fi access. Don’t expect the Wi-Fi to work well in your rooms; the facility’s Wi-Fi only depends on the mobile network & not through a wired connection. My favorite perk of being a guest at Seahose Guesthouse is the water refill dispensers in the reception & rooftop areas. You can refill as many times as you can.

4th floor common lounge & breakfast area

The hostel has nice & helpful staff. They arranged my airport transfers (₱150 per way), helped me book my island tours & gave recommendations on which restaurants to have dinner. Shoutout to Lindon & Mark for answering my questions & for helping me when the tour agency messed up with my booked island tour (more details below).

Went to the nearby gelato shop with the people I met in the dorm & island tour

I recommend everyone going to Coron to stay in Seahorse Guesthouse. This accommodation is located in Coron town, a few minutes walk to the public market, wharf, banks, stores & restaurants – pretty much close to everything. You get more than what you pay for! Make sure to book your stay early as they are usually fully-booked.

Day Tours

I only had a few days in Coron & I want to explore / visit as much as I can. First / arrival day is usually allotted for the Coron Town Tour, which will visit the Coron Public Market, Lualhati Park, San Agustin Church, Cashew Farm, Mount Tapyas View Deck & Maquinit Hot Spring. The tour costs ₱700 & it includes all fees & transfers. I sort-of got lazy after check-in & decided to skip this tour. Instead, I walked to & went up Mount Tapyas at around 5:00 in the afternoon also to watch the sunset. Entrance to the view deck is free.

Sunset from Mount Tapyas view deck

Just like El Nido, Coron also has Tours A-D. Each tour has around 4 or 5 stops with a rate of ₱800 to a little over ₱1,000 per tour (lunch included). I only had 2 days for island tours so I decided to pay a higher price to visit more islands / beaches. Locals say Calamian Islands Travel & Tours is the biggest & the best tour agency in town. I booked the 2 island tours with them through the hostel – the Coron Ultimate Island Tour (7 destinations for ₱1,600) & the Island Escapade Tour (3 islands for ₱1,700). The escapade tour is more expensive that the island tour because the 3 islands are about 1.5-2 hours boat ride away from Coron town.

The clearest waters of Coron, Palawan 😍

The initial plan was to take the Island Escapade Tour first & the Ultimate Island Tour the following day, but the agency messed up with some of the bookings. Pick-up for the escapade tour was supposed to be 7:30 am & I waited until 9:00 am. Mark (from the hostel) accompanied me to the agency office & we found out the boat left without me. DISASTER! The agency confirmed they got my booking but, the van driver & tour guide forgot to pick me up from the hostel. I was offered to join the other group of guests (also with booking problems) for the ultimate island tour; I said yes not to waste the day I have in Coron. We were given a speed boat for the tour. The snorkeling gears were given for free (usually for rent at ₱150).

Coron Ultimate Island Tour

Kayangan Lake

Beach 91 – the place where we had lunch

Skeleton Wreck

On the way to Twin Lagoon (no photo inside the Twin Lagoon, sorry!)

Snorkeling at Siete Picados

On our way back to Coron Town

Island Escapade Tour

On our way to the islands~

Malcapuya Island – stunningly beautiful!

Banana Island – the place where we had lunch

Bulog Dos

Verdict: I enjoyed the escapade tour over the ultimate island tour. The latter was jam packed with tourists; maybe because it was a long weekend in the Philippines. The ultimate tour was full of activities like snorkeling, swimming, hiking, etc. while the escapade tour was a little laid-back & relaxing – just sitting in the lying down in the sand, a little of swimming & snorkeling. For me, Kayangan Lake, Siete Picados & Beach 91 were the highlights of the ultimate tour. On the other hand, Malcapuya Island was the best island / beach I’ve been to in Coron – its beauty was beyond words.

Can’t get enough Malcapuya Island’s beauty

This pretty much sums up my 4-day weekend trip in Coron. If only I had more days to spare, I could’ve tried the Reefs & Wrecks Tour as well as the Calauit Safari Tour. I should’ve also rented a scooter to drive up to the inhabited beaches of Busuanga Island. I guess these activities will definitely be the reason to go back to Coron in the future.

Expenses

Beautiful islands, lagoons & beaches. Coron is truly a paradise! 😍

Curious how much I spent for the entire trip? Here’s a breakdown of my expenses.

Thoughts: ₱8,476.25I believe I spent just the right amount of money for a 4-day trip. The airfare was definitely a bargain; the accommodation was a good deal. It provided everything a guest needs. The tours were a bit expensive, but I think it was all good. The islands & beaches were amazing, one of the best places I’ve been to.

If you haven’t been to Coron, make sure to go there in the next few months / years before it gets super duper busy & crowded. It’s another trip for the books & I couldn’t wait to visit again!

I will definitely visit this paradise again! 😍


HELP! Recent news say that Nickelodeon (Viacom International Media Networks) & Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. are planning to develop an underwater theme park in Coron. Please help stop this plan. Coron is NOT Bikini Bottom. Show your support by signing in this petition created by environmentalist Anna Oposa. I am not in any way related to the organization, but I share the same sentiments & I believe it’s worth-sharing.

Malcapuya Island – Beauty beyond words! 😍

Have you been to Coron? What was your favorite lagoon or island? Are you planning to fly there soon? Do you have any questions about the town or the islands? Feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Happy weekend! 😎

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re.