10 Things To Avoid on Your First Solo (GIRL) Adventure


Finally, you gathered all your guts to do this. What now?!


I wouldn't call myself an "expert" by any means-- on solo traveling. But since some friends have been asking me questions on how and where to jump-start with their own girly travel adventure, I thought I'd share what I learned through the years of my own personal solo wandering trips.

Here's a good go-signal to help with your planning. And I hope that this will somehow convince you a little, or maybe ease your feelings on having cold feet to book yourself a flight to some place majestic, serene, and marvelous.

Trust me, you deserve to see more of our amazing and wonderful world! No buts. No excuses. 

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Where to start and how to plan your lifetime dream of traveling?

You need to avoid these things:


1. Avoid planning too much and not planning too well.

Tripadvisor, Wikitravel, Google, and travel blogs are just a few online sites that you can check out on where, when, and how to go to a certain place you'd like to visit.

For cheap flights, you can check out skyscanner, momondo, and Google flights. Hopper is the best app for me to know the best deals about a flight. It gives me a notification on my phone.

Once you've picked a place to visit, do your research accordingly. Always write down the names of places, the addresses, and how to get there either by bus, train, or boat-- and how much would it cost. Those are the IMPORTANT information you need to remember once you've reached your destination.

Write down the things you really wanted to see and what you really wanted to do, but always leave a room for spontaneity. You don't want to end up wasting your travel time figuring out the things you want to do or what landmarks you need to see.

I have a friend who traveled to Rio de Janeiro that only ended up seeing one landmark and getting lost for the most part, because they failed to plan their trip properly. You don't want your FIRST SOLO travel to be frustrating, stressful, and an epic-failure!

Read ahead on how to avoid these... 😉


2. Avoid over packing and not bringing the essentials.

I have to admit that this part was really hard for me to master. Especially being so conscious of what I want to wear and how I would look like in the pictures. Haha. But don't we all? #Instagramcontent, biatches!😉

I'm happy to report that I have gradually learned and have made great improvements in this department! The key to avoid over packing is the fact that you need to carry ALL your stuff on YOUR BACK. So you're not torturing anyone but yourself! Ask yourself this question, how many kilos can you carry on your back?! 5 kilos, 10 kilos, or 20 kilos?! If you wanted to carry a luggage, do remember that you're only allowed to bring 7-10 kilos (depending on the airline) as a hand-carry. Do you like to pay a ridiculous amount for over luggage?! If you got the answers to these questions, then start packing away!

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First and foremost, you need to invest on a very good quality of backpack or luggage. I got my backpack from Decathlon and it's been with me for over five years now-- without fail! For my hand-carry luggage, I've chosen a 4-wheeler that goes to the direction I lead. Again, if you're planning to do a lot of traveling in the future-- invest on good bags and luggages.


The most essentials that you need to pack:

  1. Pants (denim or light) that will go with every shirt or blouse that you have. Do limit it to three.
  2. Sweater and long shirts because sometimes the weather can be unpredictable. There will be cold days, for sure. Shorts, shirts, & blouses-- only good enough on the number of days of your trip. (But do your research ahead with the kind of weather on the place you'll go).
  3. Little black dress and ballet flats because there can be a special night that you need to be very lady-like.
  4. Swimsuits because sometimes a spontaneous trip to a beach is the ultimate place to be.
  5. Comfy sneakers and flip flops.
  6. Underwear of course! 10 pairs (bras & panties) is a bit too much actually.
  7. Toiletries and make up kit. Do not bring ALL that you have. Limit them to the MOST IMPORTANT.
  8. Your gadgets and chargers for sure. If you're bringing your laptop, make sure that you got a good storage for it.
  9. Bring a USB disk. Or do save them on a Google drive or any back up files. If you're documenting your travels with your camera, always save them before you to sleep at night-- you don't want to make a mistake of not having the pictures saved.
  10. Never underestimate the use of a notepad and a pen. I love writing and taking down notes about my trip-- especially keeping track with my expenses, so this is really one of the most essentials for me.

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3. Avoid not having a budget.

Okay, so here's the money part. Let's be realistic, you can't go on a trip if you don't have the budget.

If you're asking me on how I was able to afford my travels, it all comes down to my discipline and practice of saving up. I have honestly been very, very frugal on the things that only falls into the category of "wants and desires".

If you value experience over material things, you will certainly be able to save up for your trips. I believe, regardless of how much you earn every month and put aside a ten percent budget on your travels-- you will certainly be able to do so.

My mindset now is more of, if I save up my money on the things I don't need, I will certainly have something for a trip. I have learned a great lesson: that I've made a lot of expensive mistakes through moving houses and moving countries for the past ten years. I realized that I have only accumulated junk and excessive things that I neither use or need. From then on, I was very mindful with my shopping sprees. 

With that in mind, save! Regardless of how much you earn, the practice of saving can really make your travel dreams come true.

So avoid not having a budget. But how to save while you're traveling?!

  1. Take public transports! Take for example, I have saved up A LOT on using Uber from an airport because I was able to find the airport shuttle bus that goes to the center of the city. Airport rides are usually the most expensive, so make sure that before you land, you know that the airport has a shuttle bus service. 
  2. Pre-booked cheap hotels or hostels or stay with friends. This will help you save time and bringing cash for hotel payments. I especially loved using booking. I have never tried AirBnB yet. I have only stayed on a hostel, twice. And I did couchsurfing, once. I am sometimes being hosted by friends and families-- so that's already a great saving!
  3. Find a local supermarket. Why? Because they usually have prepared meals, or they have food counters, and a bottle of water (or soda) is twice cheaper than anywhere. You can find bread and fruits from here, so that will count as a budget meal already.
  4. Don't do your shopping while traveling. Keep in mind that you're there to see and experience the place. You're there because you want to be there. Unless you have a budget for shopping, then who am I to stop you?! 😉

4. Avoid not knowing the transport system of the place you're visiting.

Most big cities have a pretty organized transport system. Don't panic when you don't know how to navigate your way at first. Find a Tourist Information Center-- they usually give out free maps and can advice you with the public transport system. Or before your trip, print out the subway maps or the bus lines of the city. 

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Also ask about their transport cards for tourists. For example, in New York-- you can avail a one week tourist metro & bus card pass that is unlimited ride for a cheaper price. In Paris, you can also buy a similar card from the airport line that is cheaper for tourists. In Rio de Janeiro, you can buy a card, that can be used in all their transport lines (subway, bus, tram, and boat). In Beijing, it is better to buy a subway card with pre-paid load so that you can avoid the queue on rush hours.

I use Uber sometimes-- especially in Brazilian cities because it's convenient and safer for me, especially at night. But I take subways and buses on broad daylight. New York subway is pretty safe at night. Paris metro is the most confusing to navigate and Beijing subways are the most crowded, just so you know.

Familiarize the area where you want to go and Google it before you leave your hotel/hostel. And write all the details, so that you don't need to use your phone in public. When in doubt, never be afraid to ask for directions among the locals. They're usually very helpful and friendly. 


5. Avoid not immersing yourself with the history, culture, and the locals.

It is capital sin to be arrogant in your travels and trips. Stay curious. Have an open mind. Ask your questions. Always remind yourself that you need to learn something new. And the only way to do this is when you immerse yourself with the locals, the culture, and their history.

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How?! Begin with a smile on your face. I usually would go where the locals would go. Like a public market or mercado, a public library (they're mostly free), and a small, non-touristy-- local restaurant (because the owners would usually be the first to know that you're a tourist and they're immediately friendly to you), or a side walk vendor of a food or craft. 

Then you can start a conversation like, " Hi, I'm new here. What would you recommend for me? "What else do I need to try (to see or do)?" "What is your favorite place here?"

More often than not, you'll get good replies and will even be fascinated with their answers. Always listen genuinely. We, humans tend to share when we know that the other person we are talking with is listening and shows a great interest on what we're talking about.

I would often find myself having a conversation with the hotel staff, my fellow traveler, guide, or a local host. I love asking questions of how they ended up in the place because for the most parts, they also came from somewhere else. And through these people, I'd end up a more unique experience with my trip.

Again, don't be an arrogant fool! Stay curious and ask your questions.


6. Avoid not trying any FREE tours and eating a local dish.

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Free tours are usually offered in big cities. This is a fun way to meet fellow travelers and learn new things at the same time. This is also a great opportunity to freshen up some of your history lessons but also to ask your curious questions. I love free tours because they are interactive and fun. They're mostly walking tours, so you get to really see nice details of the place.

Then at the end of the tour, ask your guide to recommend a local dish you need to try and where's the best place to eat them.

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Never leave a place without being experimental with your pallet. As much as possible don't look for a McDonalds or a fast food chain. You're missing the fun on the gastronomic experience of your life!

I love food and trying out the local dishes and delicacies. It has been my favorite part of every trip I had. I would search for good, local places ahead of time and make sure I can at least go to one of them.

But if do you have allergies or you're a picky eater, then you can skip this part. 😊


7. Avoid buying too many souvenirs.

I understand that you want to keep a souvenir to remind you about your trip. But I advice you to not overdo do it! I understand that going on your first solo trip can be a bit overwhelming, so be easy on yourself-- especially with the shopping and buying stuffs. 

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When it comes to souvenir, think of something very meaningful. As much as possible pick something small and light on your bag and pocket. Trinkets as they call it. Key chains, shirts, and magnets seemed to be a popular choice, but if you can find something more connected to your adventures from that place-- that's even more unique and awesome!

I, on the other hand, love collecting postcards (and maps) for my journal. Some girls would send it to their selves on their home addresses, and I think it's really cool and wonderful. Plus, you get to say something for yourself to remember forever!


8. Avoid not having fun and doing what you love to try.

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Again, your first solo adventure can be a bit overwhelming-- stressful, scary, and frightening. But you have to let down your hair and put aside all these feelings at one point. Because otherwise, you will never see the beauty and the true meaning of your life at that moment! 

Always, always, remind yourself that you deserve to have fun and really be happy. Find one activity during your trip that you would really like to try.

I did a lot of awesome things on my solo travel: scuba diving, paragliding, hang gliding-- to name a few. I also love joining a cooking class or just hang out in a bookstore all day. I didn't conform on the practice of really going with the touristy activities.

You don't have to go where every tourists go. You can always customize your trip according to your wants and happy place. If you love visiting museums, then go visit a museum. If you love to go on a hike, then go on a hike. If you want to just drink coffee and people watch, then go ahead and do that.


9. Avoid not being safe and being mindful of your surroundings.

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This is of course, very important. You can't be too complacent especially you're alone, on a place too foreign to you. Make sure that you're doing a lot of safety precautions throughout your trip.

First, make sure that your important documents such as passports and valuable IDs are being keep safe whether on a vault box in your hotel room or safely locked in your bag.

Have a money belt bag-- where you can keep your cards and money bills, and an extra wallet-- like a coin purse to put your small bills and coins, just in case, God forbid, you get mugged-- you can give that extra wallet instead of all your money and card.

Don't act that your lost or wandering because you'll easily attract "opportunists". Don't look so naive. Don't attract danger, so to speak.

Walk in confidence but also being mindful & cautious. Walk in bright and well-lighted streets & alleyways with the crowd. When you don't see any person walking on a street or alleyways, don't go there!

Always, always, always listen to that tiny voice in your head, called gut! Because 99% of the time, it would tell you if you're in danger or not.

Lastly, keep a contact number of your emergency contacts, embassy or a police department. Write them in several pieces of paper and keep one on your money belt, on your wallet, or on your backpack-- just in case, you lost your phone. It's really important you have these numbers.


10. Avoid not leaving any of your travel information to your families or friends.

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Traveling alone as a female is mostly safe, if you keep yourself safe. You will meet a lot of interesting, wonderful, and weird people along your journey. But do keep in mind that they are still strangers, no matter what. You can trust them, but not as much as you can trust your life with them. 😊

With that being said, you will sometimes find yourself in the company of these people on a spontaneous trip and adventure. Although being spontaneous is part of the recipe on your solo adventure, don't forget that SHIT happens or more like an accident or trouble sometimes. So my final advice for you is...

Write down ALL your travel itineraries on a piece of paper and give it to your parents or a closest friend. Or leave a copy as well, inside your bedroom. In this way, they know the time period of your trip. Keep a constant communication with someone from home.

Whenever you leave your house/ home/ hostel/ and hotel-- leave all your travel information with someone or on your social media page. Let your parents/ friends/ colleagues/ front desk manager know that you're going to a certain place, what time you will go back, and what they most likely needed to know.

Also include a phone number of the hotels/hostels you're staying in. Or when you get a number abroad, let them know right away.

It's better to be safe than sorry. 😉 Always stay safe and happy travels!


Were those helpful to you? Let me know if you have more!

Rio Carnaval!

 

THE GREATEST AND MOST FABULOUS PARTY IN THE WORLD!


It definitely is!!!

And that is my testament, as someone who came from a country of colorful and vibrant festivals--all year long. 

As Brazil being my new home address, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience this grandest festival!

The best part of celebrating the carnaval while living in Brazil is that, it's a week-long NATIONAL HOLIDAY!!!

How awesome is that?!? The country is technically giving you no excuse not to go and party!!!


WHAT IS CARNAVAL? (From wikipedia.org)

The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats, and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into 5 leagues/ divisions). A samba school is composed of a collaboration of local neighbors that want to attend carnival together, with some kind of regional, geographical common background.


WHEN IS CARNAVAL?

It is a week before the start of Lent and ends on Ash Wednesday. There is no religious connection with the celebration. It is actually believed to be the time to do whatever "crazy" things you wanted to do before Lent. Like you're given a pass to make sins during this week.


HOW CRAZY IS CARNAVAL?

There are street parties on every side and corner of the streets, called samba blocos. As party goers, you can dress up! Think of Halloween costume meets the beach weather. The skimpier, the better! Haha. 


WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF RIO CARNAVAL?

The energy! The samba music! The street parties organized by the local Brazilians! It is literally the biggest party in the world. And most of all, the fabulous parade presentations of samba schools in Sambódromo!


If I have to compare it to a festival back in the Philippines, it's the combination of Dinagyang and Ati-Atihan Festivals--- but like, 10 times more with people and party energy!


If you're into parties, dressing up, and just enjoy life to the fullest--- come to Brazil during the carnaval. You'll be rejuvenated like no other.

For more things to see and do in Rio de Janeiro---check out our DIY Backpacking Guide!


Have you experienced a festival like this?

Is Rio Carnaval on your bucket list?

Ouro Preto, Brazil

 

What's the charm of this place?


Ouro Preto  is a hilly town located in the state of Minas Gerais in the southeast of Brazil. The name if translated is, "Black Gold" because the town was once surrounded with gold mines that produced gold. It is also one of Brazil's best preserved colonial towns and a UNESCO world heritage site.

This trip was an unplanned solo trip during my holidays on Brazil's National Day. This is perhaps the best thing about living and working in this country because I get to enjoy plenty of holidays! ThankyouBrazil! 

From my adopted city, Vitoria, I took a night bus that took about eight hours to get to the bus station of Ouro Preto. (R$200 round trip) 

I found a travel agency that arranged everything for me because I still have to hone my language skills in Portuguese. They also arranged my hotel which was conveniently located right outside the bus station or the rodoviária on the northwestern edge of town.

Boroni Palace Hotel was my home away from home and I did love staying there! (R$850 for 5 nights stay including breakfast).

This was my view from my hotel room of the bus station.

The town's main tourist attractions are the Baroque style churches and houses that has truly made me--- mesmerized! Thus, I called this place, majestic!

I barely read my guidebook about Ouro Preto because I was ready to be awed! And just take it as it is. I was forewarned though-- to be extra careful, since it was my first solo trip in Brazilian soil.


I am happy to report that the town is extremely safe for tourists and I had never once felt in danger! Yes, I made it home in one piece! ;)


Since the town is very steeply and have cobbled streets, you need to arm yourself with the most comfortable pairs of footwear! I on the otherhand, is very much comfortable walking in my flip-flops all day long! These pairs of Havaianas was my best friend! I certainly did A LOT of walking. I can't remember when was the last time I did walk like that.

So let me introduce you to the churches around the town. As a Catholic, this place was certainly jaw dropping! I had goosebumps whenever I entered each of them. There are about 10 churches around Ouro Preto and I had my early Visita Iglesia in some of them....


Disclaimer: All indoor pictures were "subtly" taken by me because it's not allowed to really take pictures.


Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo

The Rococo font (in the sacristy), door-case, the altars, and the statue of Santa Helena in this church are all attributed to Aleijadinho-- one of Brazil's most highly-regarded artists. He intricately carved the stones that resulted to such magnificent beauty.

In English, this is the Church of Mount Carmel. Just look at the details of the paintings on the ceiling of the church. How beautiful! The church has undergone numerous conservation and restoration works until 1965. (Entrance fee R$3.00)


Igreja de São Francisco de Assis

The church of St. Francis de Assisi is one of Latin America' most important Rococo buildings. The church combines the finest workw of Aleijadinho and Mestre Athayde-- another Brazilian painter, sculptor, gilder and teacher. My favorite one among all the churches, I've visited! (Entrance fee R$10.00)

Here's a closer look at the façade of the St. Francis de Assisi church. The great carvings, especially the upper one that shows St. Francis receiving the stigmata is believed to have been Aleijadinho's first great carvings amongst the many he created throughout the country.


Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pilar

The Church of Our Lady of Pilar is the oldest church in the town was designed by one of Aleijadinho's mentors and completed in 1731 to replace the original main church. Despite the rather stark outward appearance, the interior glistens with almost 1000 pounds of gold and almost 900 pounds of silver. The carvings are all breathtaking! (Entrance fee R$10.00)


Igreja São Francisco de Paula

The church of San Francisco de Paula was completed in the 1898, this church took a whooping 94 years to complete. Inside are Aleijadinho's sculpture of the saint after which it is names, as well as a life-size sculpture of the Last Supper.

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This is the church closest to my hotel and where I attended a Sunday mass. (Entrance fee is free but only opens on Sunday.)


Igreja Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Misericórdia

Also known as the Church of Our Lady of Mercy. It was built between 1771 and 1793.


Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceição

The church of Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion is famous for its eight lavishly decorated altars. The cemetery here has the grave of Aleijadinho, and the sacristy houses a museum dedicated to him. Built in 1727. (Closed for renovations.)


Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário

*The Church of Our Lady of Rosary was built in 1785 with slave labor. Slaves were forbidden to worship at any other church. The church has a unique shape, with a contour formed by three convergent ovals. (Closed on Mondays)


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This town attracts more tourists during Holy Week or Semana Santa. I was totally in love of the place that I don't mind going back-- hopefully I can bring my parents who are hardcore Catholics! ;)

*Source Infos: Wikitravel.com and DK Eyewitness Brazil Guidebook.


Have you been to a town with so many churches?

Beijing, China

 

Are you visiting Beijing soon?


More than THE Great Wall, I have quite a few recommendations when you visit the good old 'jing. The lesser known places, or the off-the-beaten-paths and activities, so to speak.

This is much what I can contribute to the city that adopted me for eight wonderful years!

1. Cycle around.

As the song goes, "There are nine million bicycles in Beijing..." This is one of the cities in the world with good bicycle lanes. And it's better to ride your bike to work than take a bus or subway, not only because of the traffic but also avoiding the (stinky) crowd! :P

If you're visiting, the city has introduced public bicycles for rent. But you need to register first at any of these places with your passport: Dongzhimen subway station (exit A of of Line 2), Temple of Heaven subway station of (exit A of Line 5, next to the temple's east gate) and Chaoyangmen station (exit A of Line 2). For more detailed information, click their website.

Once you have a bike, you can try these best biking routes around the city.


2. Hutong exploration.

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Hutongs are traditional courtyard residences arranged according to social classes since Zhou Dynasty (1027-256 BC) and are mostly prominent in Beijing. Some of them were turned into commercial courtyards such as, hostels, restaurants, bars, and stores.

Due to Beijing's modernity, these places are becoming extinct. Sadly, the Chinese people failed to realize that this is the authenticity and uniqueness they can offer to the world.

My favorite hutong spots are: Baochao and Beiluoguxiang. Nearest subway stops: Guloudajie (Line 2) to the north and Nanluoguxiang (Line 6) to the south. You can find the infamous, Mr. Shi's Dumplings (74 Baochao Hutong) for your jaozi, Mai (40 Beiluoguxiang) for your cocktail drinks, and Modernista (44 Baochao Hutong) for film screenings & party dancing.

If you're into comedy and art, Fangjia Hutong is the best place to see more of that. From Exit D of Yonghegong Lama Temple Station (Lines 2 and 5), it’s a simple ten-minute walk straight south to the east end of Fangjia Hutong. This hutong entrance is less recognisable than that of Guozijian (with it’s colourful gate), so be on the lookout for the sign.

You can either walk or bike around a hutong neighborhood. Pick your choice. :)


3. Miniature Beijing.

The Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is the best place to see the whole picture of the city!  It's my favorite, simply because you can immerse yourself in the architectural creativity of Beijing and learn so much after. They have a lot of interactive presentations as well.

The best part of this place: not too touristy & crowded! And in Beijing, it is a heaven's delight. ;)

Information: No. 20, Qianmen Street, Chongwen District, Qianmen Subway Station Exit A, 9:00- 5:00 PM (Tuesday-Sunday), 30RMB entrance fee.


4. Highest and most beautiful view.

Did you know that with just 2RMB, you can have a 365 degrees and a high view of the Beijing? Well, you just have to head to Jinshan Park! It is also the best place to watch the sunrise and the sunset. On a non-smoggy day, of course.

Additional trivia: This is where Emperor Chongzhen hanged himself.

Direction: Take Subway Line 5 to Dongsi Station. Get out from Exit C and then find bus 101 to Gu Gong (Forbidden City) Station. It is opposite to the north gate of the Forbbiden City.


5. Less-touristy Wall.

Understandably, THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA is the most famous and most touristy place in the outskirt of Beijing. And since Badaling is the nearest and most accessible through public transportation, it is the most visited-- everyday. (Let's say an estimated of 50, 000 people and up.)

So would you want to see the people in your pictures or the Great Wall?!? That's why you should go farther! And I suggest that you should take a van-for-rent for a long and comfortable journey. Call this number: 13641057896. He would usually charge 300-500 RMB for the round trip ride.

My favorite Great Wall spots: Mutianyu Wall,  Jinshanling Wall, and Huanghuacheng Wall.


6. From the zoo to the palace.

The Beijing Zoo is not only the home for the cute, giant Pandas of China, but it is also connecting to the Summer Palace. For 40 RMB, you're paying for the entrance fee in the zoo, the Panda's house, and the ferry boat ride to the Summer Palace. As seen here on the picture, the lake is the connecting canal to the palace.

Once you arrived at the South gate of Summer Palace, you need to pay the entrance fee of 20RMB. I highly recommend exploring the Front Hill area. You will have a nice and tranquil view of Beijing from that high spot. Also, they have free Opera Theater performances in Deheyuan Grand Theater. So be ready for this cultural experience that dates back in the late 18th century. But they only perform every hour. Ask the schedule for it.

Direction: Take Subway Line 4. Get off at Dong Wu Yuan Station, get out of the station from Exit A (northwest exit), and you'll find the south gate.


7. Bookish hangout.

Ultimately, my favorite hang out, chill out, and inspirational place in Beijing is The BookwormI can literally spend the whole day in this place without feeling bored at all. But that's just me! ;) So if you're a literary type, like me-- this is a good place to borrow and buy books, magazines, travel guidebooks, and Moleskin!

They have monthly events such as; book launching, talks, comedy nights, and quiz nights. And of course, never to miss their Literary Festival every March.

The Bookworm also serves breakfast all day! How lovely! Plus it's in Sanlitun, so you can go directly to your favorite bar after a quiet, nerdy day! You can head to The Local, which is my favorite Irish-pub in the area where you and your friends can play pool and Foosball.

Direction: 4 Sanlitun Nan Lu, Chaoyang District. Tuanjiehu Subway Station: Exit at the Pacific Century Plaza exit, on Gongti Bei Lu.


8. Dance with grannies.

 Pic taken from google images

Pic taken from google images

Beijing has a good number of public parks. And from springtime, you will see Chinese retirees dancing their feet away to the tune of English pop music, tango, cha-cha, and classic Chinese medleys!

This is one of the best way to immerse and enjoy(!) yourself with the old people. So don't be shy to join in with their line-dancing. Trust me, they're very good dancers too!

Houhai Park is probably one of the large groups in the city. But I've recently learned from the news that they're cracking down these public dances and exercises. So just keep an eye to any public park around you. They usually start from 5PM- 8 PM, everyday.


9. Food! Food! Food!

I love Chinese food!!! It's one of the huge reason why I miss Beijing! And the variety of choices from other Asian and Western foods are also endless!


Here are my favorite restaurants around Beijing:

(Don't worry these restaurants have English menus with pictures.)


  1. Baoyuan Jiazi Wu (6 Maizidian Jie, Chaoyang District) for colorful dumplings and eggplant dish. 
  2. Da Gui (69 Daxing Hutong, Jiaodaokou, Dongcheng District), a Guizhou restaurant. I highly recommend their suantuangyu (fish on the soup), yuan xiao (glutinous rice dumplings), and their Dagui style pork ribs!
  3. Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant (Gongti Beilu, just across the Workers Gymnasium) for a cheaper but good tasting Peking Duck! They also serve my favorite Fried Spicy Chicken and Spicy Fish Soup, and other famous Chinese dishes.
  4. Annie's Italian Restaurant (located in all districts) is probably not just my favorite go-to Italian restaurant but also Frenchie's favorite take-out! We literally eat Annie's pizza and pasta every weekend (and every night for him!).
  5. Muse (Sanlitun, Chaoyang Park, and Indigo Mall) is my favorite go-to Vietnamese restaurant. I love their fried chicken, tom yam soup, and Vietnamese rolls! And of course, pho noodle soup!
  6. Susu (Qianliang Hutong, West Alley No. 10) is another Vietnamese restaurant in Beijing. They are located in this hidden hutong alley and you need to reserve a table before you go because they are always full. We love their lunch menu set which is affordable as compared to their pricier dinner menus. Don't pass up to eat their papaya salad.
  7. Element Fresh (Sanlitun and Lido area) is my favorite take-out food. It's fresh and healthy! And they make the best Chicken Teppanyaki Salad and fresh Carrot-Ginger juice!
  8. Macau Taste (Sanlitun) is my favorite Cantonese restaurant. I love their interior set up, too. Their variety of dim sum are a delight to my stomach!
  9. The Tree (Sanlitun) is probably one of my earliest favorite restaurant in Beijing. They have the best wooden-baked pizzas in town. And their Pan-Fried Chicken with mushroom sauce is already a full meal in itself.
  10. Haidilao (all around the city) is not just my favorite, but perhaps the favorite of all Beijing ren. It's a hot-pot restaurant that you have to try whenever you're in China. Yes, hot-pot is a must experience! ;)

10. Quiet bars.

As I passed my 20s, I feel like I no longer belonged in loud bars with pop music, skinny dancing Chinese girls, and expat teenagers. In short, I'm no longer the target demographic of these places! Haha!

Thankfully, there are "quiet" bars that you can go to for a cocktail drink on a Friday and Saturday night in Beijing if you feel too old like me. Or if you simply don't want to shout when you talk to anyone while inside a bar.

I especially love the atmosphere in Ennotera (Sanlitun) for the rooftop setting, Fu Bar (Workers Stadium) for the hidden surprise, Revolution (Sanlitun) for the small crowd, Ming Bar (Sanlitun) for the member-only entrance & best cocktails (they only have 7 chairs inside), and Mai (Beiluoguxiang) for the hutong vibe.

Ahhh, I miss Beijing. But I hope this will give you more to love with my adopted city. And oh, Capital M (Qianmen) is my best recommendation for lovers. They have the best food and the nice view. All in all, a good romantic package for a date night or a date lunch. ;)

This will also help you plan your Beijing adventure: http://www.timeoutbeijing.com/VisitingBeijing.html


Have you been to Beijing? What was your favorite?

Vitória, Espirito Santo

 

Would you like to visit me here?


For a small-town girl like me, I am still, in awe that I always end up in big cities--- huge even, where big things happen! I call myself-- a former Beijinger, a brief New Yorker, and now an adopted Brazilian!

As for my new life in Brazil, allow me to introduce to you the lesser known city and state of Brazil-- Vitória, Espirito Santo which is currently my newest adopted city.


Vitória is the capital city of the state of Espirito Santo. Located in the southeast part of Brazil, which is an hour plane ride or 9-hour bus ride from Rio de Janeiro.


Wikipedia.com: This city was rated as the second Brazilian capital with the best quality of life, according to research institution at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. This same research institution also claims that Vitoria is the 9th best city in Brazil to work. The capita income among the capitals of Brazil. In 1998, the United Nations rated Vitória as the fourth best state capital in Brazil to live in, rating cities on health, education, and social improvement projects. 

It has also the largest port in handling a ton in Brazil.


But more than those facts. These are the 10 things I love about my new home city:


1. The magnificent view of sunrise every morning-- from my flat.

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2. While my night view is also competing for that top spot. ;)

 

3. The beaches that made it a perfect place to be! While having ice cream or fresh coconut juice.

 

4. The scenery just reminds me so much of home. Coconuts, anyone?! :) 

 

5. Their food is a delight to my stomach. ;) I LOVE IT! Damn, the Brazilian BBQs are the B-O-M-B!

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6. My choices of weekend activities vary from walking, swimming, paddle surfing, and kayaking!

 

7. The architectural and historical buildings and churches around the city, made it fabulous. While the Favelas contributed to the beauty and character of Vitória, too.

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8. What can I say about the people? They are the most beautiful! Literally! And the most chilled individuals. They are ever so friendly, helpful, and accommodating. In many ways, we Filipinos are like them. Prayerful even. 

 

9. The night life scene and party goers look like this...

 

10. I can of course tell you the bad things. But why should I?!-- when there are so many beautiful and positive things to say about Brazil, moreover about Vitória. More than anything, by focusing on the better things, it will even change our mindset about a place, a country, a city, and its people. In my case, I'm jumping high in such joyous vibe just to be here. Thankyouverymuch! :)


Last August, I finally hosted a friend in my flat. My Chinese friend, Chris, whom I met in Beijing through Couchsurfing meetings, and now lives in Sao Paulo-- came to visit me here in Vitoria for a weekend. He brought me so many goodies and we cooked everything that I missed from China.

So I'm still open to hosting friends and families here until December 2017. Just bring me goodies and cook me comfort food. ;)

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What do you love about your city where you live now?

Harbin, China

 

Where to go for an ice and snow festival?


If I have to choose between hot and cold weather-- I'll raise both my hands and feet, and say, HOT!!!

My body is made for the tropics. Thankyouverymuch! ;)

But on January 2013, I braced the coldest temperature my body can ever take-- -25'C! Weee!

I went to Harbin, China for their Ice and Snow Festival that takes place every Chinese Spring Holiday.

Since, I wasn't leaving the mainland for the Chinese Chunjie (New Year), I decided to go there.

www.ctrip.com-- probably has the best travel deals within China. And true enough, I paid CNY 1,800 for my round trip air flight and hotel accommodation to go to the Northeastern part of China.

I was able to convince my co-league slash housemate slash baker friend slash party organizer buddy, Wilbur.

Together, we explored the foreign city which is almost close to Russia!

St. Sophia Church is an edifice that says more about the Russian influence in this part of China.

Harbin is the capital city of Heilongjiang Province and this is China's original and greatest ice artwork festival, attracting hundreds of thousands of local people and visitors from all over the world.

I did not stand the cold in Harbin.

I kid you not, I was wearing five layers on top, three layers of pants, and four layers of socks! I had to beg Wil to get inside a store, or a coffee shop, or a mini restaurant just to get warm. I also brought a mini faux fur blanket just to keep my hands from the chill. (See pictures below.) Brrrr!

The main tourist attraction is the Ice and Snow World being one of the world's largest ice architecture parks.

It is open from 12:00- 21:00 and had an entrance fee of CNY 330. You need to visit it at night to see the multicolored lights that illuminate to each ice and snow sculptures.

The place was massive and each ice sculpture is humongous!

For photo ops, Wil and I are asking random strangers or taking turns just so we can capture the whole place!

There are two other ice parks to visit, but I couldn't take walking around, in the cold so we settled with Ice and Snow World. They are all accessible on foot or by bus: Ice and Lantern Garden Party (14:00-21:30 CNY 200) and Sun Island Scenic Area (8:00-17:30 CNY240). You can also go skiing to Yabuli International Ski Resort .

Another tourist attraction in Harbin is the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park.  It is the largest natural park for wild Siberian tigers in the world at present.

We've seen wild tigers next to our caged vehicle and walking through a caged corridor, eating their poor prey-- live chickens!

Downtown Harbin (both day & night) looks a lot like this. Since, it's snowing almost every day, the snow ground is too slippery to walk on.

Oh, don't forget to try the Russian food while you're out there. It was my best paid Cream of Mushroom soup! Ever!

 

Where's the coldest place you've been to?

Siargao, Philippines

 

Where to go in Mindanao?


Siargao is located at the northeastern tip of Mindanao and a haven for surfers around the world.

We took a ferry from Surigao City to Dapa. (200 per person/ 3hr & 30 minutes). From there, it took us another 45 minutes to our resort cottage-- Cherinicole Beach Resort. We were lucky to be traveling with the whole Bauson clan because they arranged everything for us-- from the pick up to reservations.

But like many touristy places in the country, you can always find any means of transportation to get to your destination: tricycles, minivans, habal-habal, and bangkas.

Siargao is so pristine and beautiful! And not too commercialized (hopefully, not ever) like Boracay.

A few hours after we settled, we went to a tiny island across our beach resort, called Guyam-- a circular clump of sand and palm trees ideal for picnics, swimming or sunbathing.

We rented a bangka for Php 1,200 for 5 hours.

And once there, we went swimming all the way!

The kiddos tried to build sand castles...

And I helped them find some hermit crabs. Until they went back swimming again...

And eventually, called it a day!

EDITED:

We also went to Magpungko Beach in Pilar, about 35km north from General Luna (GL). The sandy beach is one of the island’s best.

The highlight is the giant natural swimming pool (basically a huge rock pool) that forms to the far left of the beach at low tide.

Unfortunately, we came in too late for the low tide to swim here.

It is said that the water is beautifully clear and inviting, when the weather is at your side.

There’s an entrance fee of Php 50 per person and you can bring outside foods and drinks.

They have a small restaurant and sari-sari store but it’s better to bring your own food, especially if you’re traveling in big group, just like us.

To get to the place, you can rent motorcycles (Php 500/ a day) or ask a habal-habal driver to take you there (Php 300).


Island hopping is the best in Siargao.


According to Rough Guide, Siargao is littered with unspoiled and rarely visited islands, but you’d need your own boat if you’d like to explore them all.

Worry not though, because most resorts can fix you up with local bangka operators.

If only we’re staying longer, I would have visited them all.

 

Here are the suggested islands of Rough Guide:


Naked Island is a little more than a giant sand bar and perfect for lounging in the sun.

Dako Island, means big, is smothered in coconut palms and home to a small fishing community. The villagers will happily serve you fresh coconut.

La Janoza and Mamon, where a powdery white sand beach and a quaint fishing village between these islands is a pellucid lagoon, that’s wonderful for swimming and snorkeling. Both islands are also surfing hot spots.


Siargao is really beautiful! You should come visit it soon!

Xingping, China

 

Have you always been looking for some place quiet?


After a successful self-finding-slash-self-indulging-solo-travel in the end quarter of 2012, I found myself starting a tradition.

That is, to take a trip once a year, on my own, to collect memories, try new adventures, and meeting inspiring people. 

In 2013, I last-minute-ly picked, Yangshuo, China!

I was supposed to go to Vietnam for this trip but my renewal of Chinese visa got delayed, so Frenchie suggested that (somehow) Yangshuo is close to Vietnam.

Well, I'm not really sure about that because...

  1. He's never been to Vietnam at that time.
  2. Spending three weeks on his part in Yangshuo is not exactly a good comparison to a country that is Vietnam.
  3. How should I know?!?

So the moment I got my new Chinese visa at hand, specifically making me a legal alien yet again in this country, I booked a flight to Yangshuo and flew early morning the next day.


I love airports.


Or perhaps the swarm of people I see around me--having different routes to take.

My secret desire for a career was to be a flight stewardess.

I tend to pretend that I can hear their personal stories in my head, as to why they wanted to take a journey, wherever there is they’re going…


“Who’s going to pick me up when I reached arrival?” 
“I miss my daughter so much I can’t wait to hug her.”
“I wonder if I had her smell in my shirt, I hope my wife is not home yet.”
“Another airport again, I’m sooo exhausted!!!”


Almost six hours later—3.5 by air and 1.5 by land, and .5 by lake, I was welcomed by a magnificent view of Li River.

Now, I have to tell you that in spite of consulting Frenchie and tripadvisor and an additional friend called Brian, I did not entirely plan or knew what I should be doing in this part of the mainland.

Heck, I didn't even know that the inn-- Xingping Our Inn, I booked was two hours away from Guilin!

But you see, that’s the good thing of traveling alone, when this shit happens, you have no one to blame except yourself.

I did not do the blaming.

After all, the sight can make up to what I was really looking for.

The trip was also my ME time. Early that year, the work has just been crazy and I literally needed a break and a real vacation, which for normal people like me, means doing nothing.

Which probably explains why I didn't exactly plan plan the whole trip.

All I know is I needed a new scenery…a far cry from high rise buildings and smog.

And oh boy, Frenchie is very well right to say that it'll be like Vietnam (but then again, how should I know?!)

Little did I know that the small town of Xingping was a big reminder of what I missed most about home...

  • It was very quiet and peaceful. Business stop at exactly 6:30 PM.
 
  •  I love how old people are living without qualms in such a touristy environment.
 
  • The ancient place is like a time capsule (at least for me) when it stood the test of modernity.
 
  • The natural beauty and wonder of nature was truly a sight to behold.
 
  • This little town of Xingping is popularly known to Chinese as the place of the 20 renminbi bill
 

For five days, I was treated to a beautiful scenery, good food (I highly recommend the beer fish) and the awesome and inspiring company of the travelers I've met.

 

Biking became like an afternoon hobby. You can rent a bike for RMB25/day.

 

And hiking was my new exercise.

 

I had a fabulous, lovely time, and very quiet ME time so to speak...


Where is your quiet place?

Bohol, Philippines

 

What to do in Bohol with your family?


If I have one word to describe Bohol, it would be: peaceful.

Since I came all the way to Malapascua, and went back to Cebu, and took a ferry boat from there to Bohol, it took me almost 24 hours of time travel. The Southwest monsoon was not cooperating with me, so I was stuck in Cebu Port for over five hours!

While waiting for my delayed boat, I indulged myself into their famous rice, puso and chicken bbq.

Cebu to Bohol by fast ferry is one hour and a half, for Php520. There are a few fast ferries that goes there and vice versa. Click here for schedules. 

My family on the other hand flew from Iloilo to Cebu, spent a night there and took the ferry boat to Bohol in the morning. They were in Panglao before afternoon strike. While I got to Panglao at midnight!

The best thing about Bohol is you can visit ALL the tourist attractions in one day. Every vans or cars for rent exactly know where and when to start the tour if you’ll book them. For this trip, I have entrusted my dear sister to do all the planning and bookings. After all, this was her second visit.

Since there are seven of us, budgeting this trip was very important. And we also considered the fact that we are travelling with three very “moody” senior citizens! Haha Well, honestly, that only goes out to my mother. :P Good thing, Senior Citizen Cards present a 20% discount on fares, foods, and entrance fees. So that alone was a big save.

We stayed in Panglao for this trip, which is thirty minutes away from Tagbilaran City. We got a family cottage in Casanova Garden for Php800/night. We took two rooms for the seven of us. If I have only known the conditions in Casanova (a far cry from the pictures), I would have to chose Bohol Bee Farm, having read great reviews about the place. A friend also suggested another place, but this one near Tagbilaran City which he genuinely like, Nut Huts. Click the word for lists of accommodations in Bohol and Panglao.

It’s a pity on my part that I never really got to explore the “hidden gems” that this place has to offer. How I wish I stayed longer so I could have learned how to drive a motorcycle (that every tourist seem to enjoy), try out diving (Fun and Sun recommended a nice dive shop), wandering & getting lost around (this is one place in the Philippines that it’s VERY safe to do it), and swimming all day long (I came a day late so I have to keep up with my family’s itinerary). Next time, for sure! ;)

I’m greatly impressed as to how Boholanos promote and help their tourism system. Everyone helps out. Everyone is friendly, helpful, and accommodating. Expat tourists seem to be at home in this island. This is quite visible, especially in Panglao where most resorts and lodging houses were Swiss, German, French, and American named (or owned). It is indeed a nice place to be both a tourist and a local. Saludo ako sa inyo, Boholanos!


Here's what to see or what to do in Bohol


Sagbayan Peak 

 

Butterfly Park

 

Mahogany man-made forest in Bilar

 

Tarsier viewing in Loboc

 

Bamboo Hanging Bridge in Sevilla

 

Zipline adventure in Danao

 

Prony, the python

 

Baclayon Church

 

Panglao Beach (at night) 

We skipped the Loboc River Restaurant cruise because we have a family in Bohol who prepared home cooked dishes!

But don't leave Bohol without your souvenirs.


Have you been to bohol? what else can you to do there?

Malapascua, Cebu

 

Do you want to go somewhere else aside from boracay?


I can't honestly remember how and when I heard the name, Malapascua. I know at a time that it existed somewhere in Pilipinas. And it officially became the kick start of my yearly solo travel adventure.

It was my earnest desire to learn how to dive. The thought of seeing the underwater world is the top reason for this. You should know though, that I have a crazy love affair with water: I'm a water baby, Pisces being my star sign. I started swimming when I was way too young even kick my feet but never had "formal" training in swimming, which only came a bit later in sophomore college. When I was 12 years old, I nearly drowned while swimming ( like literally fighting for my L-I-F-E situation!) with a dear classmate and friend, Rolyn just after their town fiesta celebration. I never got to tell my parents about it, but it never stopped me from coming close to any form of water afterwards. Yes, I'm thankful that I'm still alive and breathing after that incident. Then again, my swimming 'abilities' is only moderate.


Note: Since I live in Iloilo, flying to Cebu is only 40 minutes. Local airlines such as Philippine Airline, Cebu Pacific, and Air Philippines fly daily to Cebu from anywhere in the country. Airline tickets cost from Php800- 1,600 for a single and round trip flights.


I landed in Cebu/ Mactan International Airport just before 8am. I took a metered-taxi from the airport to the North Bus Terminal in Mactan, Cebu. This cost Php 400.00

According to the blogs I've read, I have to take a bus going to Maya. So I did as I was told and it cost Php 163.00. Cebu City to Maya was approximately five hours and a half that includes two stops (for restroom break and eating).

After the loooong, heart-stopping, and life-and-death bus ride, I made it in one piece in Maya Port! I was starting to think to myself that I should just have listened to my Nanay. In Maya, I looked like a lost and wandering soul, as I was the only sole person who got off the Ceres bus. It was the last stop by the way. My purple luggage wasn't of great help either. Finally, minutes later, a man in his late thirties (I assume) approached me and asked me where I was bound to.

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One word: Malapascua

His Word: Three thousand pesos.

I was dumbfounded! I only have a total cash of four thousand pesos (aside from the money for my diving course). So if I will spend most of it, will I live in the island for a thousand pesos?! How expensive/cheap is Malapascua anyway? I have no idea!!!

So this is where my shopper skill came in....bargain the price...at half the price. He laughed, I have no choice but to laugh with him too. Hahaha.

Thankfully, my instinct and other skill came in...ask questions who looks local. With my very little Bisaya, I managed to ask a lady where I can take a bangka to Malapascua. As if  she was an angel sent from above, she said, "I live there and I will take that bangka (pointing to a big one). It will leave after 30 minutes." Relief was an understatement at that moment. haha

The thirty minutes almost turned into an hour, I've seen four more buses stopped in that port and more tourist looking people got off. Ahhh, second relief! To make the story short, I toom the bangka among other tourists for only Php 80.00/pax.

 It took us thirty minutes to cross the mass of water just to get to our destination. And boy, the moment I saw the coconuts, the white sand, and the colorful bqngkas...I know I made the BEST choice for my me time. This is definitely my top beach destination. Sorry, but Boracay is way too touristy for my taste already. Every visit since my college days are disappointingly unbecoming.

For my home-away-from-home-accommodatipn, I stayed af Mike and Dioses's, owned by the friendliest German-Pinoy-at-heart owner, Mike who is very welcoming and helpful (and informative). The funny story was, I booked my room in advance for only Php 500.00/night. But Mike gave it away to a Finnish tourist, so he has to give me another room. Thankfully and out of luck, I was given the best new room. Ohhh, how I loved it!

Since I came to Malapascua to dive, I spent most of my time in the dive school just five minutes walk from Mike and Diose's. I was literally studying--- with books to read and videos to watch, because after the course, I'll be given a written exam!

So during my so-called-free-time, I took the opportunity to explore a little bit of the island with some lost wandering, trying out the local dishes, and swimming on my own.


Malapascua had me falling in love with her in no time.


Malapascua easily became a favorite because of the beautiful beach, the quiet surroundings, and its wonderful people. 

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It was the perfect place to mend my broken heart.


Of course, the nightly cheap massage by the beachside did the trick for me.


Have you been to a place that mended your broken heart?

Boracay, Philippines

 

Where to go in boracay to avoid the tourists?


If there's anywhere I wanted to be in the world, it would be along a white sand beach, sipping some milk shake, reading a book, and watching the sun sets.

I'm an island girl, after all-- as I am from one of the 7,100 islands in the Philippines.

Speaking of my home country, let me introduce to you---BORACAY. This is undoubtedly, one of the most famous, most touristy, and most commercialized island in the country. 


It is also one of the most beautiful!


Boracay island is separated from Panay island by a narrow strait. The island is located opposite the barangay of Caticlan in the municipality of Malay, Aklan. Transportation across the strait is provided by boats operating from the Caticlan jetty port.

Boracay is served by two airports in Aklan: the Kalibo International Airport and Godofredo P. Ramos Airport commonly referred to as the Caticlan airport.

My last reunion with the island was six years ago.

So many things have changed. I noticed more resorts and first class hotels are popping out just about anywhere you go. I think somehow, at some point SM Group of Companies were thinking to build one of their malls in your area. 

Despite all of that changes, Boracay continues to show it's charm to the world through its most beautiful sunsets, each and every day.

The island also offers leisure activities available on or near Boracay include horseback riding, scuba diving, helmet diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kiteboarding, cliff diving, parasailing, and of course, beach relaxation. 

On my last visit, we discovered a less touristy, somewhat private, white beach on the east side of the island. It was worth the walk. 

I may have been to some parts of the country and some parts of the world where there are serene beaches, but nothing compares to the beauty of Boracay and its infamous sunset beauty.

And it will continue to be one of my favorite places in the Philippines and in the world. 


For more Boracay travel guides, check out www.tripadvisor.com