Archive for the ‘ Asia ’ Category

DIY: Visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors

We included a visit to Xi’an for one goal and that is to see the terra cotta warriors! The greatest archeological find of our generation. They were discovered by some farmers who were trying to dig up a well back in the 1960s.

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The terracotta army in Pit 1

 

The Terracotta Army or the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses” is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. -wikipedia

There are several options on how you go about seeing them. Joining a group tour or hiring your private guide would always be the more convenient way. I find them pricey though and not to my liking. Or you can do it on your own. This one would require some bits of research – which is maybe why you’re on this page; and asking around. I find this more my style as I’ll save some money (though not as much time) and I think it’s the more exciting way to go about doing things.

I’ve read that if one rode the high speed train to get to Xi’an, they’re entitled for a free shuttle ride straight to the site on the same day. But we arrived around 11pm and wanted to visit the next morning. So instead of hoping our tickets were still valid, we decided to just not do it. We then went to Xi’an Railway station the next day. On the eastern side of the square is a bus terminal. We found a very long queue and thought it’s the one leading to the famed warriors and we were right after double checking with those in charge of the line.

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Take bus 5(306), 7RMB, 1hr travel time, last stop: Museum of Xin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horse

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I’ll finally get to see the terracotta army! :D

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Entrance fee is 150RMB

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Pit 1

The sheer scale of this sculpture army makes it impressive. Also, no two warrior look the same. The museum is divided into 3 pit (excavation): Pit No. 1, No.2, and No.3. Pit 1 was the first to be opened to public visits. It is the largest amongst the 3 and is the most impressive too. This is the pit that you’d I thought to myself  “that’s what I’ve seen in print countless of times before!”

Some pictures of Pit 1:

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Pit 2 is said to be the most spectacular owing to more complex combat formation. Also, the units here are said to be more complete as compared to those in the other pits. That may be the case but unfortunately, I got sidetracked by a display in the corner where you can have pictures taken with the terracotta army. If you don’t want to shell out for those souvenir photos, you can opt to pay a minimal fee to be able to use your own camera instead. The bf laughingly remarked that I seemed to have been more excited with the photo-op session over seeing the terracotta army in the pits! hehe

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Pit 2

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Pit 3 though the tiniest is said to be the headquarter/ command centre of the army in the other pits. Unfortunately, most of the warriors here are endless which could be attributed to vandalism but it’s still a guess.

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Pit 3

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Pit 3

There’s also a museum there. From which we learned that the terracotta warriors were originally meant to be colourful! It’s just that time and natural elements eroded most of the colours away.

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The terracotta warriors were originally full of colours.

I would recommend for history buffs to see the terracotta warriors. However, I wish we had a full day and night to explore Xi’an too! Guess it’s another reason to go back then? :)

DIY: Daytrip to Fuji Shibazakura Festival

I only had one goal for the Tokyo-leg of our Japan trip – to see the pink moss in full bloom with Mt. Fuji in the background!
Disclaimer: probably because the bf made sure we get to watch a sumo match and a baseball game, and visit a robot restaurant amongst others hehehe

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Shibazakura is a flower that grows thickly, covering the ground like a lawn. The shape of its pretty flower petals looks like that of sakura (cherry blossoms) and it comes in a variety of colors including different shades of pink, white, and light purple, with some petals having striped patterns. –Japan MWM

There are few but vital things to consider when going to Kawaguchiko for a daytrip: How do you go there? Do you take a bus or take the train? What’s the weather gonna be like? Will you be able to see Mt. Fuji? Will the flowers be in bloom?

I was originally planning for us to go to Kawaguchiko from Kyoto as a stop over enroute to Tokyo to avoid backtracking. But on the intended day of travel, the weather was bad wasn’t so good.  It was continuously raining in Kyoto and according to the weather report, it’d be raining in Tokyo too. Turns out there was a typhoon that passed by the country while we were there. Since we weren’t too keen on getting soaked with our luggage in tow, we decided to just head straight to Tokyo. We’d save a trip to Mt. Fuji for another day.

I was checking out the weather report on a daily basis after that. Plus, there’s also a website that would show you a live feed from the Shibazakura festival. Pretty handy! The Fuji Shibazakura Festival is an annual event that is held when the flowers are in bloom – mid April until late May.

When I was checking out the route to get there via hyperdia it hit me that there are other alternative public transport to get there. We didn’t get a JR pass and I wasn’t too keen on shelling out 18,000 yen for transport alone. We opted to take the bus because it’s a direct trip – no need to transfer. PLUS, it’s way cheaper (7,000 yen/ return/ 2pax)! The only catch is you have to make (an online) reservation to make sure you’ll have a seat on the day and time that you want to travel. We decided to wing it one clear day and arrived at the bus station around 11am to find out that the next available seats are for the 3pm trip. Oh no! I easily booked a reservation when we got back to the hotel that evening.

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Boarding on time at Shinjuku

Two days after, we were back in Shinjuku. Following the West Exit (or expressway buses) sign we arrived just in time for our scheduled departure. When we got to Kawaguchiko station, there was a booth outside that’s selling ticket for the festival along with discounted return bus trip, it’s another 30-40 minute bus ride away.

We were still 30mins away when we first got a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. We’re just happy that we could see it inspite of a cloudy forecast. It turned out to be a warm, sunny day with a clear view of the beautiful volcano.

Here are some pictures from our daytrip. :)

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Woot! First glimpse of the beautiful Fujisan!

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Looking for an ATM that accepts non-Japanese issued cards – the only one we found was at the post office!

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Taking a picture of the bf taking a selfie! :D

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So colourful and beautiful!

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The full bloom of the flowers had just finished a few days before – still looked amazing!

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Seems like a good choice for nuptial photos too!

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The queue for the coach back to the train/ bus station

 

Kaiseki at Nishiki

Michael and I love Japanese food! Our first date was in a Japanese restaurant where he treated me out for my birthday dinner. From sushi to ramen to everything in between, what’s not to love about it? I kinda planned the Kyoto leg of our trip around food – I didn’t tell Mike but I’m certain he had an inkling of what was coming.  :D

Inside Tenryū-ji's garden in Arashiyama

Inside Tenryū-ji’s garden in Arashiyama

A must for me for our trip is to have a traditional Japanese meal. Having kaiseki is a great way of going about it! Kaiseki is a multicourse traditional Japanese meal. The menu changes with the season as the meal is a reflection of nature’s bounty. For the Japanese, presentation is very important. Each course that was served to us was beautifully arranged and garnished. It is quite pricey though but since we flew more than 18hrs to get there, we might as well splurge a bit – though not that much (still budget conscious hehe). We had one for lunch and one for dinner.

We had a kaiseki lunch in Nishiki on a daytrip to Arashiyama. The feedback from them were all very positive. Plus, it’s relatively more affordable. We paid 4,800yen per person for an 8-course meal which took almost 2 hours.They have a website but I can’t find any English translation. I wrote a letter to the ryokan we were going to stay at to make a reservation for us which they easily did after I answered their questions: when and what time, how many course, for how many people.

Nishiki restaurant is located very close to Arashiyama Station (Hankyu line). Upon arriving there, we were warmly welcomed and ushered into our own private room. The lady who served us was really, really nice which we happily realised is the norm in the country but she hardly spoke English. It was all good since all we had to do was seat and wait for our food to arrive one by one. We could hardly wait!

That magical tray that will hold beautiful food for the next hour and a half.

That magical tray that will hold beautiful food for the next hour and a half.

First course is a small appetizer. We were served deep-fried tofu with Japanese mustard inside. Accompanied by Japanese wild ginger and soy sauce. This dish is simple but we love it! The mustard gave us a kick. I had to stop everything and hold my nose from the heat. It was gone as soon as it came. The sensation was pretty cool and unexpected! haha

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Second course was sashimi, porgy sashimi and cooked burdock. They were adorned with (from left to right) spirally-cut angelica (celery-like stalk), cucumber made into an image of water drop, seaweed, wasabi and pickled garlic. I’m really not a fan of sashimi and though I was able to finish this plate, it wasn’t in my favourites. Mike thinks otherwise. :)

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Third course, is herring soup with tea-Soba (tea-taste buckwheat noodles) in mild shoyu (soy sauce) soup. It’s garnished with leek and grated radish. Since the radish was made into a round shape, at first glance we thought it was egg yolk.  I really enjoyed the fish! The dish has a rich flavour that try as I might not to, I finished it so fast – Mike wasn’t even halfway with his!

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Fourth course is oshukuzen – assorted dishes in a tiered food box. This has got to be the prettiest course we’ve had for this meal. I just had to ask her to take our pic with this beauty! <3

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Upper tier: trevally sushi inside the Japanese ark, dried halfbeak inside the gabion box. Side dishes (from left to right) include special boiled small fish, pickled carrot in ume-blossom vinegar, eel roll with burdock, leaf bud of Japanese pepper, boiled beans and kashiwamochi (rice cake wrapped with an oak leaf).

Bottom tier included taros boiled in soy sauce and sugar, fried free-range chicken and vegetable.

Somehow, it felt like a crime to tuck into this and “destroy” such a wonderfully prepared dish. But we were hungry and can’t wait to taste it as everything had been really good so far!

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Sixth course, a medium plate. A fried eggplant that served as a pot for miso soup and ginger. We weren’t sure how to go about eating this. Mike’s solution? Just dive into it!

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Seventh course, cereals. Porridge of rice with green beans and pickled vegetables as well as Enoki mushroom. The Japanese serve rice towards the end of the meal. With this in mind, I was a bit sad to be given this dish because it meant that our meal was coming to an end. At the same time, we were already quite stuffed so I was able to accept it more readily. hehe Mike doesn’t understand Asian soup(s). He remarked that they just seem to be water boiled with something in it unlike the Western counterpart were everything is pureed together. This dish wasn’t in his top three. I really like it though – it reminds me of a dish my mom would cook for me. I’m not certain if one can describe a taste as simple and fresh -that’s how I’ll describe this dish. He gave me his soup and I would have finished it if I can but I just can’t – I was close to bursting!

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Eight and last course, fresh strawberries to end a beautiful meal and a warm cup of oolong tea to wash it all down with.

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So happily full!

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How to Apply for an OEC?

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What is an OEC?
OEC stands for Overseas employment Certificate.  These are exit permits issued to OFWs which are to be presented to the Immigration counter at the airport prior to departure from the Philippines.

Who needs an OEC?
If you’re an overseas Filipino worker going on a vacation to the Philippines, you’ll need to get one. On the plus side, once you’re on your way back to the country where you’re working, you won’t have to pay for the terminal fee as well as the travel tax that’s usually imposed on other Filipinos.

What to bring?
You  need to bring your passport as well as the green OWWA form since written there are all the information that the consulate would need to know. The form that you have to fill up, you could either download here or just ask for it at the consulate.

When to apply?
The OEC that’d be issued is valid for 60days so do it near your departure date.

How much does it cost?
The actual OEC is really cheap at £2. However, I was informed that we’d be needing to renew our OWWA membership every two years and that’s going to cost you £18.

Where to apply?
Just head to the consulate nearest you. The Philippine Embassy in the United Kingdom is closest to Charring Cross tube station.

 

http://philembassy-uk.org/labor-welfare/overseas-employment-certificate-balik-manggagawa

Bucketlist 101

We all have a travel bucketlist – a list of places we’d love to go to and visit at one point in our lifetime.

I realized that the more I go out there to see more of the world, the longer my list becomes instead!

This travelbug, once you get it… it’s hard to get it out of your system!

Where to next??? :D

Where to next??? :D

I’ve tried making a list of dream destinations. It’s actually hard as I didn’t want to be biased on any one continent.

One almost always has a map in their room if they're crazy about travels - almost! ;)

One almost always has a map in their room if they’re crazy about travels – almost! ;)

 

Do I write the name of the city or of a specific building or monument in there? Rome vs. Trevi Fountain, Colosseo, Pantheon, etc.

Do I specify any activity or just the name of the place? Ride a gondola in Venice vs. (just) Venice

Anyways, I sort of made it! Yay! Haha Have a look and tell how many you’ve places you’ve visited in this list! Just click on any of the pictures in this post. ;)

Going crazy over tomatoes in Spain!

Going crazy over tomatoes in Spain!

 

Sunset over Portugal :)

Sunset over Portugal :)

 

Where is your next destination?
Related posts:
Where Have You Been in 2013?
Travel Wish List for 2013!
2012: Exploring Europe
Must See Travel Movies
Songs and Travels: My Travel Playlist!

Where Have You Been in 2013?

It’s that time of the year where people are making lists (again) of the year that was and which will be followed closely with what they want for the coming year. Kinda mandatory for bloggers I guess. haha Before the year started, I listed 12 places I wanted to visit and in the end, I had been to 10 of those. Not bad if I may say so. Add the fact that I ended up travelling  instead to some countries I didn’t consider. :D And since part of the fun in travelling includes planning for them and reminiscing about the trips themselves… I’m happily sharing my 2013 in travels! ;)

Morocco

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It’s my first time to set foot in Africa and was I excited! Morocco was a different kind of beauty from what I’m used to (South East Asia’s lush green forests and crystal blue waters). It’s a rugged, harsh and stark kind of beauty. Differest, yes, but still beautiful!

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From Marrakech’s UNESCO-World-heritage-site-old-medina, to the snow-topped covered mountains of High Atlas to the sandy coastline of Essaouira, Morroco seems to have it all. Too bad the Sahara dessert is a 5hours drive away from Marrakech according to our guide that’s why we weren’t able to go. A good excuse to come back for sure!

Philippines

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To say I’m excited to go on a trip back home since relocating to London is an understatement! My bags were packed and ready to go a month before my trip! haha
Sea. Sand. Sun. Sky. Family. Friends. Amazing food. = Home = ♥

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Travelled all over the islands coz I’ve got friends with me who were in the country for the first time. Went to my usual faves: Boracay, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan. Did tons of stuff like swam with whalesharks, island hopped, trekked, went on a firefly tour and much more! It is definitely more fun in the Philippines!

Hong Kong

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It’s my nth time in this small but very dynamic city! I LOVE the foods here! There’s this really affordable Michelin rated dimsum place in Kowloon (and they now have a branch in HK island) that you gotta try! The place is called Tim Ho Wan. ♥

 Macau

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From old temples to humongous casinos.. this is Asia’s own version of Vegas and what a city of contradiction and mix of Portuguese and Chinese heritage it is!

 Singapore

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Singapore is South East Asia’s melting pot of culture. They have Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street. This mix also manifests itself in their food and it’s really good! They say the country is a foodie’s paradise and I couldn’t help but agree! Aside from that, they’ve got some pretty cool buildings like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Gardens by the Bay (pictured above).

So many friends to see and visit in such a relatively small country! See you guys in March!♥

So many friends to see and visit in such a relatively small country! See you guys again in March!♥

Malaysia

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First time to visit Malaysia. Had so much fun that I’ll visit again in a few months! :D

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Must do: picture in front of the iconic Petronas Towers (with high school mates, JC and James)

Slovakia

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After my 5weeks trip in Asia, I was knackered! I had to have a vacation to get over my vacation. haha First stop was Slovakia’s Bratislava. Admittedly, the only thing I’ve heard from others is that 1. You’ll see all that there’s to see in a day and that 2. It’s a cheap (financially speaking) city.

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Well, we saw a lot but we did kinda finished quickly and yes, lodgings were indeed much cheaper there! Food was cheaper too. My cousin and I would get tempted whenever they’d write “traditional dishes” on the menu (goulash, etc) hehe

Hungary

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Friends have been saying that Hungary’s Budapest is one of their favourite cities. Well, if awesome parties, numerous thermal baths, colourful history and beautiful architecture won’t do it for you, I dunno what would (maybe uhmm… good looking guys with amazing abs there? It was summer when I visited and they’d somehow walk around with their shirts off or with open buttons -_- haha)

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I ♥ Budapest!

Switzerland

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Chocolates. Watches. (Very expensive) train rides. Gorgeous scenery. It could only mean I’m in Switzerland!

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I kept telling friends that I found Italy’s Amalfi Coast to be the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen so far in Europe. I can’t say it with such conviction after seeing Lauterbrunnen (aka as Valley of the 72 waterfalls). The Swiss Alps is just something else!

Portugal

Quick stop in Portugal's Lisboa and Sintra with my travel buddy, Jess, enroute to Spain. Food here was the cheapest I've had so far in Europe and is very good! We did quite a lot of walking and the city had many hills so do wear comfy shoes. ;)

Quick stop in Portugal’s Lisboa and Sintra with my travel buddy, Jess, enroute to Spain. Food here was the cheapest I’ve had so far in Europe and is very good! We did quite a lot of walking and the city had many hills so do wear comfy shoes. ;)

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Daytrip to Sintra, a UNESCO world heritage site, then a jaunt to Cabo da Roca – westernmost point of mainland Europe. :)

Spain

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La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain is the world’s largest food fight celebrated every last Wednesday of August. Around 40 metric tons of tomatoes are thrown against each other! I got hit in the eye by an unsquished tomato (against the rules!). It hurts! T_T Wallowed in pain for a minute or ten – til I got everything out of my eye, then back to the food fight! haha

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With my very own Spanish guide, Jessica!♥

Italy

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View of the Pantheon from the inside looking out into the piazza.

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Posing in front of Fontana di Trevi with my workmates. It’s difficult when you have people who are so easy to invite and convince to go along with my silly ideas (ie: an overnight trip to Rome!) because it’s really gonna happen! :D

France

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Le Mont St Michel.♥

My fave group of people after CS Manila, CS Paris. Such a fun loving group!

My fave group of people after CS Manila, CS Paris. Such a fun loving group!

Greece

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A bucket list destination for me and many of my friends. Had such a wonderful time in Santorini. It’s best to come around late September-early October: not as many tourists and prices would have gone down by then. Pictured above: Oia sunset

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Amidst the ruins in Athens

Iceland

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Iceland is a country full of natural beauty. Winter meant aurora borealis while summer would be time for the midnight sun. Would love to go back and see more in the summer! Must do in Iceland: visit and swim in the Blue Lagoon. You won’t regret it!

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A short trip in this beautiful country with girl friends to celebrate my birthday. :D

2 013, you have been more than kind to me. To those who I’ve travelled with, to friends who took the time to meet me while I was on the road, to new friends and to those who’ve made a positive impact, and to those who were just always there for me no matter what… thank you so much guys for making the year that had just passed by a colourful and memorable one indeed!♥

See you all in 2014! Where do you plan to travel this year? People do say dream big since sky’s the limit! :D

Related posts:
Travel Wish List for 2013!
2012: Exploring Europe
Must See Travel Movies
Songs and Travels: My Travel Playlist!

Asia. 5 Weeks. 4 Countries.

5 weeks. 4 countries. 10 cities.

I wasn’t really being crazy. I just got so excited with the idea of going back to Asia. I missed the beaches -the ones in Europe are IMO not as good as those back home -so for almost 3 weeks, I was beach hopping! I wanted to see so many things – visit old faves and try something new so that’s what happened! I figured, I’ll be dead tired by the end of 5 weeks but I’ll have so much time to recuperate once I get back. hehe
Here’s a sneak preview in pictures of what went on for this trip. I hope I could go into more details soon.

Boracay

With friends who flew to the island to meet up with me! <3

Back for the nth time in this beautiful beach island. This time around, with friends who flew there to meet up with me as their excuse! haha <3

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Swimming with whalesharks!

Swimming with whalesharks is always a pretty cool experience!

Dalaguete

Scaling high peaks!

From swimming with whalesharks, we then went on to scale the highest peaks of Cebu!

Bohol

Chocolate Hills

Behind us is the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. Browsing through our pictures for this trip, I told one of the guys who travelled with me that it looked like we had one big photoshoot in the Philippines! The country is just so picturesque, every shot is looking so awesome!

Puerto Princesa

Getting stranded

Getting stranded then hitching a ride enroute to an almost secluded, pristine beach!

Sabang

Visiting a natural wonder of the world

Visiting a natural wonder of the world is on our must-do list while in the island of Palawan.

El Nido

El Nido!!!

El Nido!!! Nothing more to add. :D

Hong Kong

Hong Kong island mural

Back again in my fave Asian city, Hong Kong. The length of time I’ve spent here would total more than a month already! Wow! Posing in front one of the island’s mural.

Macau

First family overseas trip!

First family overseas trip! I’ve always travelled with my mom but it’s the first time for the boys to go out of the country. :D

Singapore

With the Marina Bay Sands Hotel at the background

With the Marina Bay Sands Hotel at the background.

Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia

The iconic Petronas Tower of Malaysia, once the highest building in the world!

Melaka

Quick stop over in Melaka

Quick stop over in the UNESCO World Heritage city that is Melaka! :D

 

Related posts:
Travel Wish List for 2013!
Bohol: A 3D2N Adventure!
Boracay
El Nido Escapade (day1)
Swimming with Whalesharks in Donsol

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