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

2016 Recap: Going Solo

In less than 25 hours, another year will come to an end. Before I start another calendar year in my life, I believe it is a good time to look back where this year took me.

2016 was mostly about solo travel. After years of travelling with various sets of friends, I finally had the courage to go on my own, (re)discover old & new places, experience different cultures & meet new friends.

Let me give you a recap of how this year of solo (& some of not-so-solo) travels went.

Yangon, Myanmar

I initially planned this as the first solo trip of the year but my friend Geof tagged along. There are no direct flights from Manila to Yangon; so we had to book tickets to Bangkok, then onwards to Yangon. We had a 16-hour layover in Bangkok so we took the chance to go out of the airport, stay in a hostel over the night & see the Grand Palace in the morning.

           Team Philmar at the Yangon Amazing Games 2016

Then, we took the afternoon flight to Yangon & spent the rest of the trip there. We joined the Amazing Game Yangon & attended the Global Village 2016 Program, both organized by AIESEC in Myanmar. We also went around the city by foot, discovered different temples & pagodas & experienced Chinese New Year in Yangon Chinatown. We went to different markets, tried their street food & watched football (with beers) with our roommates in the hostel.

                   A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda

Of course, a visit in Yangon will never be complete without visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s definitely a place to visit in Yangon.

Koh Lipe, Thailand

This should have been a beach trip to the Gilis in Indonesia or a weekend in the forests of Luang Prabang, but plans changed when Carl, the Brit guy we met in Ao Nang last year, recommended Koh Lipe. This place is also known as the Maldives of Thailand.

It was my first international solo trip, to an island unknown to all people I know back home. It took me 2 flights (Manila to Kuala Lumpur, then to Langkawi) & 1 ferry ride (Langkawi to the island) to reach Koh Lipe.

                 Walking at the shores of Koh Rawi

I had the most relaxing 3 days of my life there. I literally walked around the beautiful island, sipped some fresh fruit shakes while sitting on the shore, enjoyed some quiet time in paradise, got sun-kissed in the scenic beaches & met some cool new friends in the hostel & in the island tour.

Koh Lipe is truly a paradise; it’s a place I will definitely go back to in the future.

      With my sister in the grounds of Petronas Twin Towers, KL

I had a one night stopover in Kuala Lumpur before I flew back to Manila. I dropped by to visit my sister who was assigned there for work. We heard mass & had lunch together; also made a quick visit to the grounds of the Petronas Twin Towers.

Pangasinan

For the 2nd year in a row (& maybe for the last time), my friends at work decided to have a beach weekend trip somewhere far from the metro. We, a group of 16 fun people, went to Pangasinan for a weekend last May.

           View from the Governor's Island, Hundred Islands

We spent the first day around the Hundred Islands in Alaminos City. We walked around a crowded island, went to caves & jumped over a cliff. We then went to a lighthouse, a beach, another cave & into a market on the 2nd day.

                      With the best colleagues!

The road trip was really long, we enjoyed each other’s company.

Boracay Island, Aklan

This trip pushed through just because I didn’t want to waste the cheap roundtrip tickets I booked. I went to Boracay all by myself, stayed in a party hostel & ended up having a great time up to the point I didn’t want to leave.

                 Mad Monkey Hostel Boracay's pool

The weather wasn’t that favourable during my stay. Good thing, Mad Monkey Hostel had a swimming pool & a bar / restaurant. I found myself staying in the hostel all throughout the trip, talking to different people from all parts of the world, drinking with new-found friends & exchanging travel stories with everyone.

                           Boracay Beach

It was also one of the days where I had too much alcohol, passed out & woke up in my bed the next day not knowing how I went back the night before.

El Nido, Palawan

Just like the Yangon trip, this was supposed to be another solo trip. Days & months after, my high school travel buddies joined, making it a reunion trip for the 4 of us. The last trip the 4 of us were complete was way back in Singapore 2 years ago.

           With my highschool travel buddies / constants!

El Nido is place I will never get tired of visiting. It was my 3rd time to visit the paradise & I still am in awe of how beautiful the place is. I took my friends to Nacpan Beach twice (Yes, twice!) then joined them in the famous Tour A (Lagoon Tour).

                    Small Lagoon, Miniloc Island

It’s one of the trips where we made great memories together & enjoyed each other’s company.

Bangkok, Thailand

This is the best trip of my 2016. I wasn’t able to see much of what Bangkok has to offer but I surely had fun drinking, socializing & partying.

   One of those nights in Khao San Rd with 10 other solo travellers

I flew to Bangkok with a roundtrip plane ticket, a hostel booking & no plans at all. The only ‘tourist-y’ I probably did there was to go on a day tour in Ayutthaya. The rest was all about meeting people, eating ฿40 pad thai on the streets, drinking Chang beers & partying in Khao San Rd.

           A game of cards turned into one big party group!

I also met & hangout with a lot of people from all over the world – England, United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Poland, India, Gibraltar & a lot more.

Japan

When I went to Japan last year, I made a promise to myself that I will definitely go back to explore more. It didn’t take long for me to book tickets back to Japan; thus this trip was born.

      European city vibe in a middle of a Japanese City (Nagoya)

This 13-day trip brought me to the beautiful gardens of Nagoya, the historical sites of Hiroshima, the ancient temples of Kyoto, the busy shopping streets of Osaka, the friendly deers of Nara, the tender beef cuts of Kobe & the delicious ramens of Fukuoka.

                   Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto

I was able to experience the Japanese culture again but this time with the luxury of time.

                          Deer selfie 😉

That sums up all my travels for this year. I may have explored fewer places & countries this year; but I surely made awesome memories with different people.  I might not have anything booked or planned as of yet, but I look forward to another year of solo (& maybe not-so-solo) travels for 2017!

*Yangon photo credits to Geof & Nappark photo credit to Danielle.