Friday, December 26, 2014

VIVA EL SUR, VILA EL ECUADOR

"What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land." - The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Viva el Sur. Hello South.
And so it begins. I didn't know what to expect, but the quaint city of Quito in Ecuador, some 9,500 feet above sea level, and the highest capital city in the world, literally took my breath away. Had a little high altitude sickness, but the beauty more than made up for it. 
It was breathtaking.







Thursday, December 04, 2014

THE YELLOW CARD : CERTIFICATS INTERNATIONAUX DE VACCINATION



One thing that a traveler must really find time is to research and take preventive shots or vaccines before they go on their adventure. I must admit that I'm quite stubborn when it comes to vaccination. I was doing a lot of jungle trek in Southeast Asia before and some of the places that we visited were infested with Malaria. I was lucky that i didnt catch the virus, but it would have been so bad knowing that I didnt even have travel insurance for that leg of my journey.

This time, I'm not taking any chances, knowing quite well that some of the countries that I will be visiting is high risk with yellow fever. Yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa. The virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.  Illness ranges in severity from a self-limited febrile illness to severe liver disease with bleeding.

Upon checking, some countries require all travelers to show proof of yellow fever vaccination before they can enter the country. Other countries require proof of vaccination only if travelers have been in a risk area.  I think even the Philippines will not allow entry to travelers coming from a yellow fever risk country.

For that I had to get a yellow card, a certificate issued and approved by the World Health Organization, given as a proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination. In Manila, the only authorized agency is the Bureau of Quarantine, which is located at the back of Manila Hotel.  I had to brave my way Metro Manila Traffic, and it took me 2 hours from Ortigas to the Manila Port Area. Tip, really come in early. I arrived 2:45 and I almost didnt make it. When I arrived, the guard said that the vaccination is close already, they close at 3pm, and I know that i had 15 minutes left, so i had to talk my way. I mean, I really didnt want to go back the following day and brave the 2 hour traffic again.



Once there, it was relatively fast and easy. All you have to do is fill up a form until the nurse calls you in for the vaccination. It took me 10 mins to do everything, then I just had to pay for the vaccine. I paid 2,000 Pesos, roughly $45. I'm not sure if it is expensive, I havent paid for a vaccine before, but what the heck, a reasonable price to pay for your peace of mind and preventive health.







After paying, they issued me this yellow certificate the folds nicely and is the size of a passport.  Vaccination complete.  Off to another adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2014

THE 52 HOUR TRAIN RIDE FROM CHICAGO TO SAN FRANCISCO


The last few years I've done some amazing travels that unfortunately I wasn't able to document here in the blog. Indulge me and let me backtrack and share some of them with you.

December 2012 was my first time in the US, and for some reason, before that, I wasn't really that excited about going. But everything changed when during the last quarter of 2012, the opportunity presented itself.

I was free for 2 weeks just before Christmas, and I haven't seen my grandma in years, she lives in Los Angeles, and I felt that it was a perfect time for me to visit her and give US a go.

I made this crazy itinerary, San Francisco - Los Angeles - New York - Chicago and back to San Francisco to catch my flight back to Manila. And yup, all in 2 weeks.

Cut to, I actually did it, spent a great time in all these great American cities. From Chicago I was supposed to get a flight back to San Francisco, but this crazy idea hit me - why not cross the eastern coast to the west by land travel. I really love train travel a lot and read that California Zephyr of the Amtrak is one of the most picturesque train travel journeys in the world.

On a whim, I got the ticket, but only did I find out that it would require 52 long hours.

Since there was no turning back, I had no choice but to get in the train and travel 2 days from east to west.

The train travel turned out to be the highlight of my US trip, crossing different states, and marveling at the most beautiful winter that I've seen.









Wednesday, April 23, 2014

ESCAPE TO GEORGETOWN PENANG



During our last two days in Malaysia, we opted to go North and do a quick stop over in Georgetown, the capital of Penang, a World UNESCO Heritage Site.

We took a sleeper train and arrived really early in Butterworth where in we had to wait for a ferry that would cross us to Georgetown.



Penang proved to be another highlight of this Malaysian trip and it was a pity that we didnt have enough days to explore the town. It has this distinct charm that I haven't experience before in Southeast Asia. I'd love to spend a week here knowing that it can recharge my creative juice.




The street scene is a great find for photography enthusiasts. It is very vibrant and is just full of that local flavor.





We even stumbled upon a Camera Museum that is a great treat for photographers.



Too bad that we had to cut the stopover short as our bus heading back to Kuala Lumpur had to leave in the afternoon. But again, I'd say that this overnight side trip was well worth it. Hopefully, I'll get the chance again to spend more time in Penang. Soon.






Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MALAYSIAN GETAWAY PART 2: PENINSULAR MALAYSIA



I was excited to go back to Kuala Lumpur, knowing that I missed a lot the last time that I was here.








Our hostel was near Chinatown and the Chinese influence was very apparent from the food to the look of the downtown. I stayed in a different part of the city before, and I must say that this part was more charming and I really did get to enjoy it a lot.








It was an early second day in Kuala Lumpur as we headed to the sacred Batu Caves. Foreign and local tourist find their way in Batu which is less than an hour away from the capital. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old.








That night,  we took a sleeper train on the way to Penang. I'll write another entry about it cause there were so many things to talk about that charming city.





That afternoon, we caught the last bus going back to Kuala Lumpur. The next morning, we just took it slow and explored the capital.  It was so difficult to explain, but I just love the eclectic vibe that the city brings. We also visited the iconic Petronas Tower. 












Eight days seems so short but we were able to visit a lot and we were able to explore the two sides of Malaysia. Seriously, it felt rushed and I'd want to do this trip again but maybe I'll spend more time in Penang, and I'll try to Visit Ipoh and Malacca, another Unesco World Heritage Site. Overall, it was a great summer trip.



Monday, April 21, 2014

MALAYSIAN GETAWAY PART 1: NORTHERN BORNEO



Malaysia was always on my "must" list to travel and explore. But the last time that  I was there, I only used it as a stopover on my way to Bangkok. So when the opportunity presented it self last summer, I took the chance and went on an 8 day trip with friends.


It was even better that we were able to do both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo) in the journey so that we were able to experience the different highlights that the two different islands had to offer.



First stop was Kotakinabalu, in Sabah. It was a very laidback town, more of a sleeper actually. But in its quaintness lies its charm. The hotel that we got was walking distance to Tanjung Aru,  the beach area.




The beach during the sunset was very cinematic. I could spend hours just watching the setting sun, that alone made the trip worth it. At night, a lot of the locals go there as well for the food market

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The second day, we found ourselves going to the Kotakinabalu Botanical Gardens. There was a stopover on the way where in we can take a picture of the famed Mount Kotakinabalu. We really wanted to do the mountain trek but it will take us 3 to 4 days and we didnt have the luxury of time. So, we settled for a photo-op.



Kotakinabalu Botanical Gardens was a refreshing trip. We seldom take for granted the times when we can commune with nature. The trip was worth it because not only did we get to learn a thing or two about the different flora and fauna of Sabah, we also got to unwind and enjoy the beauty of nature that we dont get to do when we're busy working in the city.



We spent one more day in Kotakinabalu before flying to Kuala Lumpur, we visited Jessleton Point and other great stops along the way. We defintely had a great time, too bad we weren't able to hike Kinabalu but this was a great excuse to go back again in this part of this beautiful country.











Next stop... Peninsular Malaysia.