Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Southeast Asia Wandering (Route 3- The Flashpacker)

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#SURFYOGADIVEbike #IndonesiaSingaporePhilippines #BikiniKindOfLife

Flying from Malaysia to Jakarta, train to Yogya just to reach Bali for less than $100. Only because I failed to book a promo round trip ticket from KL-Bali for the same amount  last August and by the time decision has been finalized, it was already $100 one way. It’s not too bad, after all, it was fate that brought me to Java before setting to Bali.

Bali, the budgetpacker lived a flashpacker’s life. Enjoyed the familiar in the uncharted zone.

One week of this :-)

One week of this 🙂

The familiar face having fun with something close to my heart! Photo by: Adri Assmarra

The familiar face (victim of my convincing charm) having fun with something close to my heart!
Photo by: Adri Assmarra

There are many ways to reach Depansar from Jogja like taking an expensive flight or some cheap stake bus/train ride for 18 hours. I chose the latter (before flashpacking starts), train to Banyuwangi then bus to Depansar (with ferry connection) with total expense of 90000IDR ($9). It was not a journey for the weak but those who’ll risk it are rewarded with a magnificent countryside tour of Java. Maybe I was lucky too, got seated to a bunch of kind locals who fed me with chips for the entire trip. Food was also available from the train’s restaurant. My seatmates talked to me in local language, of course I looked like one of them. But the moment my mouth started to move, they were all surprised and started interviewing me, instant celebrity feels, lol. Anyway, everything went well until one of my seatmates asked me to follow him to his house. I thought it was kind but didn’t realized it was something else. duh. He was so persistent that it felt awkward already. Although I knew that nothing worse can happen to me, declining it in a nice way repeatedly was my manner  of shouting NO WAY and just GO. He got the message and apologized then left. Whew, that was close! It did not end with that man, there were others too who helped me first then tried to take advantage. Bali, sadistic. Despite the series of mishaps upon my arrival, surrender was not in my vocabulary. Arrived in Bali around 4am with no transportation heading to the airport except a $20 cab ride. No, not yet. Asked around and some guys gave me directions to the terminal where I can get a local bus to the airport to pick up my surfmate, Janine. So I did but there was nothing yet. First trip to the airport was scheduled 6am. Instead of waiting, I just slept. Yes, slept in the street of Bali, who cares, nobody knows me there. My body was too harassed,so off to dreamland in a few minutes. Woke up to the honking of the vehicles and the sun was up! Went directly to the airport, that for the record was a better place to relax. Enjoyed the free wifi and comfy seat to sleep.Airports are my favorite accommodation,almost everything is free except food.

Yes this is BALI kind of Life

Yes this is BALI kind of Life Photo by Janine Jose

BALI (Indonesia)–where everything is more expensive except surfing items (yep with outlet stores for brands like roxy, quiksilver, billabong, volcom etc). All my expenses skyrocketed. But no regrets, every penny spent was worth it. All because this trip was for a dear sister. She owned this time. Yes, her name is Janine Jose, the culprit, lol. A chance for some luxury after living in budget-conscious life on the road.

flashy

with the Flashy Janine Ann Jose at the Monkey Village. Photo by: Janine Jose

Sunrise activity in Kuta Beach Photo by: Adri Assmarra

Sunrise activity in Kuta Beach
Photo by: Adri Assmarra

This is an island that most of its places to see are crowded with tourists coming from different parts of the world.Best to rent a motorbike/car to explore the entire island. We opted to do it with style, get a tour company to see some of Bali’s best for one day at $50/each with free buffet lunch and plated dinner. We wanted to go to Ubud but when we were passing by the center, we saw a huge crowd of tourists and I just said NO. We went shopping for some surfing items like bikinis, boardshorts and shirts. We also asked our driver to bring us to a traditional healer (aside from Ketut) but when we arrived at the place, she was no longer practicing.

Bali 1

Legian for a romantic sunset view with acoustic music

Bali 2

Cute Kuta street art

Bali 3

Part of the flashy tour, to see this legend. Just see because it was expensive to avail his services ($20)

Bali 4

Traditional Balinese temple

Bali 5

Why did I come to Bali? Surf!!! one week of surfing life in Kuta

Bali 6

Flashy Bali Tour Lunch with this view Photo by: Janine Jose

The best part of the Bali Flashy Tour--Coffee and Tea free taste

The best part of the Bali Flashy Tour–Coffee and Tea free taste Photo by: Janine Jose

Bali 7

Definitely flashpacking at Bali Chaya Hotel, comes with free breakfast and near Legian beach and shopping area. Yep thats me doing some Yoga Photo by: Janine Jose

Surfing– $10/hour with board and guide. Board rental $20 for whole day. The main beach for surfing is Kuta while Legian and Seminyak are better for hangout and drinks. According to some friends, Uluwatu beach is good for intermediate level. My surfer friend Wayan Sneper and his brother teach surfing for beginners and can serve as guides too.

Food/Drink– Warung vegan rice meals are cheap for $1. Fried rice would cost $1.5. A bottle of beer in a bar $5. Steamed/Grilled Corn $2. Plate of onion rings with big portion at $3. Fruit shakes ranging from $3-5.

Accommodation- no comment, lol. $35 for twin bed AC room with free wifi, welcome drinks, dryer and all demands from my surfmate 🙂

Transportation- everything in the beach and shopping area are walking distance. Going to the airport, best to take bluebird taxi or hassle yourself and take the public transport. From Airport to Kuta, we paid $5 whereas Legian to Airport $8.

Foreign Exchange Etc– Most establishments accepts Visa and Mastercard but with minimal fee. For the money changers, take extra caution as most of the smaller shops have better rates but with a dirty scheme. I tried this. Went to a smaller shops and asked if they can give me 100000 bills but most of them refused and asked if its okay to change with 20,000 bills, of course no. Its harder to recount the bills so when one shop agreed to change with 50000 bill I agreed. When he was preparing the money for $100 in front of me, I was checking his hands. And when I told him to put all the bills by twos for faster checking, he refused. And I insisted that I recount the bills before completing the transaction, he then asked if I can wait and he’ll talk to his boss. When he came back, he told me he can’t change my dollar because it was an old version. I just smiled and walked out of the shop.Their trick is to count the money in front of the client then by the time they hand the money, its not the same amount as what they were previously counting. Just go to the licensed money changers for safer transactions.

One week with this flashy tripper

One week with this flashy tripper

Then we have to part ways again. She had to fly back to Manila while I decided to stay for one day then proceed to the Gili Islands. Just one day, because I refuse purchase the ferry ticket in advance.So there I was, walking away from Legian trying to find my way to another hostel in Kuta, where I was meant to meet someone who would be part of my future life (nothing romantic, okay?!).

GILI AIR (Indonesia)-One of the three Gili Islands closest to Lombok, the other two are Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. Trawangan is known as the party area while Meno is a place for the green turtle sanctuary. So why go to Air? It was just some random thoughts, lol. The idea came from some friends’ plan to visit the Gilis on 2015. As of this writing, this remains to be a plan, right Gwen? Moving on, the journey to Air was posh, instead of taking the public transport, took the shuttle ferry for $25 (250000IDR) for an hour ride. As this island is small, it was just a few hours of walk to see the entire silent and chill hideaway. After fixing stuff at 7SEAS Backpacker Hostel (70000IDR fan bed in a mixed dorm), it was time to explore and eat. Thirty minutes of walking led to a beachside restaurant (Warung) with a beautiful view of Meno and cheap food, it was time to feed the hungry soul with vegan rice meal and Mango shake without milk and sugar at $3. Then it happened, again, food coma, off to dreamland under the cold breeze and whisper of Gili air. Life is better in bikini. The sun was not happy about this so, it hit the sleeping body with a powerful kame hame wave, boooooom time to get back on track. It was almost sunset when the trail was completed, back to that dorm bed, dinner and meeting the roommie.It’s a four bed mixed dorm with only me and a Belgian banker named Amaury who had a heavier bag. What a mix, really, bankers in one room. So the entire night was about, darn, corporate professional life and so on.

Amaury, the other banker

Amaury, the other banker

Snorkeling in front of the hostel

Snorkeling in front of the hostel

It was supposed to be a one day layover, but then, the last boat to Lombok and Bali left just before we decided to stop snorkeling (gear rental at $2.5). We can’t stay in the same hostel though, so we moved to a bungalow for $15 with fan, double bed, wifi and breakfast. Like cash and stock transactions, we both had to go our separate route, him to Bali, me to Lombok.

Senggigi beach (Lombok, Indonesia)– bigger than Bali and the Gilis with an International airport that has flights to nearby SEA countries, also multiple domestic fleet.  Lombok is less touristy as compared to Bali with popular trekking and surfing areas located away from each other. Senggigi beach is none of both. Another brain freeze decision. From Gili Air, take the public boat to Lombok for $1 for an hour cruise. From the port in Lombok, follow the locals, as they will be walking towards the bus terminal 300 meters away. From the bus terminal, there are public buses, mini vans and private cars that go to Kuta, Airport, Senggigi and other destination within the island. Always bargain as the fare highly depends on this particular skill. Nothing spectacular except the peace from the beach next door. Another two days spent swimming, reading and meditating. Birthday blues.

lombok 2

just me, the beach and ebooks

while waiting for the bus to the airport

while waiting for the bus to the airport

Two books.two nights and an early two hour trip to the airport. Yes, it could have been shorter if I had stayed in Kuta. Sauce. Anyway, originally, the first trip was scheduled at 6am yet the bus came ten minutes before 7 and ETD of the Airasia flight was 9:50 AM. Another chasing flight story. Nothing serious, made it just before the check-in counter closed. Went directly to the departure lounge passing through that cute Indonesian Immigration officer, who greeted me with, “happy birthday and enjoy.” Blushed, too much anxiety erased the fact that its almost the 27th year. Sigh, flew to Johor Bharu, Malaysia for $15, crossed to Singapore on the same day.


Singapore– the safer home. Not to mention, the more expensive city life. With one heck of a story! Been here before, with my beautiful familia, cousins Andrea and Ello, grammy Lola Hely. We did the usual, Sentosa, Orchard and Little India. Another opportunity to reconnect with the past. The catch: staying at a friend’s (former boyfriend) place for four nights, enough time to celebrate the 27th. No, don’t try to judge. Not being defensive, it was purely platonic. Nothing romantic. I know what you’re thinking: ITS IMPOSSIBLE. I say, it’s possible. At least for me it was staying at a friend’s house shared by his other friends. Who wouldn’t stay in a posh condo unit with Olympic-sized pool near the beach and the airport. The swimming pool that confirmed something: panic can either save me or end my bikini kinda life. Yup, ME almost drowned, on the day of the 27th year. Beautiful almost disaster. Other than hanging out at the pool, it was the chance to meet with a good friend and chat the day away. It was a memorable reunion that started in HarbourFront Center that culminated in the Christmas themed Orchard road. Until that day, for the first time, I got kicked out of a house, without a fight, nothing but these words: my girlfriend is upset/crying. Good sh*t. Brokenness appeared like a ghost of the past, smiled and it went away. No time to waste, packed and booked ready to leave for Melaka where Nacho mucho was waiting to rescue a rain-wet soul.

we were kids again in Singapre

we were kids again in Singapore

Birthday treat from my angel Malou

Birthday treat from my angel Malou. Photo by: Malou Gatus

Yuh, flashpacker me before the big event

Yuh, flashpacker me before the big event. Photo by: Malou Gatus

who can say NO to this?

who can say NO to this haven?

Pardon for not talking about the kick-out issue, may be soon.


After a healing week in Melaka with Nacho, the inevitable was bound to happen. Flight back to Manila, for more bikini life. It was a pseudohomecoming, the comfort zone.

Anilao (Batangas, Philippines)- Got this post from Couchsurfing that someone wants a diving buddy, signed up. From the airport, went straight to the bus station to meet this stranger named Celine and her friend. Didn’t really understand that she was not Filipino but Malaysian working in the Philippines, hahaha clueless. Turned out, she’s a mermaid trapped in a human body. Her friend’s name is Abi, who became my buddy under the sea until upland. This acquaintance led to many more like our Padi instructor Jeroen Elout (Dutch by passport), classmate and self-defense teacher Jerry (German by nationality and language but a Filipino blooded skater) his cousins, our Dutch classmates Kuya Mauricio,Kuya Koen and Kuya Mark with one more Pinay power Aileen.

The powerhouse diving class Photo by: Abigail Lazaro

The powerhouse diving class
Photo by: Abigail Lazaro

Anilao is known for its beautiful underwater world. We had to do it, no I have to do it. They were all doing it, me, undecided. The non-swimmer me was scared. Not of the uncertainty but of drowning. Nevertheless, tried it for one dive (that eventually led to more dives) at P1800 which included beginner open water skills, equipments,dive log,lunch and free use of shower facilities. The experience was beyond words. Can I actually breathe underwater, more to say hangout with the corals, fishes and creatures I have never seen before. Being a non-swimmer, the support of my classmates made a difference. They all got their licenses except me and Abi, we were not ready to go down some more. Until recently, completed my Padi Open Water Diving course under Jeroen Elout.

with forever buddy Abi

with forever diving buddy Abi

From self-defense to diving to longboard, THE JERRY Photo by: Jeroen Elout

From self-defense to diving to longboard, THE JERRY
Photo by: Jeroen Elout

Describe Anilao: A for awesomeness

Describe Anilao: A for awesomeness

Cebu (Philippines)– For the infinite time,I am back. Still, reconnecting with the past. Met with a few good friends from previous job, Crissy, Franzel and Kuya Onat. And my parent by forced choice (dated seven years ago in Busan, South Korea), Ramces. What’s there to do? Babysit my parental while exploring Cebu like going to Mobydick again and hiking another waterfall. Plus the Mactan and Cebu city tour with my onscreen partner, lol, Daniel. That Kathrine Bernardo feels. Oh Cebu, with so much love from Dungog family, sigh. Oh Cebu, you made me feel insecure too. Those strolling escapades with Daniel that led to “you’re so lucky to have him,” conversation with strangers that crushed the ego of this wanderer.

Spending time with Mobydick in Oslob Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Spending time with Mobydick in Oslob
Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Crazy Beautiful Mactan with Daniel Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Crazy Beautiful Mactan with Daniel
Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Aguinid Waterfalls, Samboan Cebu

Aguinid Waterfalls, Samboan Cebu

Enjoying the local favorites ngohiong and puso with Lysa D Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Enjoying the local favorites ngohiong and puso with Lysa D
Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Cebu, totally still in love with you. For all the imperfections and beauty, you have been surprising this soul in every visit. Temporarily ending this trip with your embrace, see you again.

Too much drama. Who says its over? No, just had to take another flight down south. Back to the comfort of a simple life. To that warm embrace and infectious laugh. The existence that is forever ME. Spirits who look like ME. As I walked out of Tandag airport, a banderole in the form of a green kia SUV emerged and three angels came rushing to welcome this tripper with smiles and unique dialogue (their own version of Surigaonon). There at that instance, the flashpacking and volunteering continues with Sir Ninoy and Tatay Fuds, crossing Lanuza to Madrid Surigao del Sur. Never-ending traipse of a rambling life, covered and no bikini sighting this time.

back to this imperfectly perfect lafamilia

back to this imperfectly perfect lafamilia

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The SouthEast Asia Wandering (Route 2)

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#surfYOGAdiveBIKE #CrazierStories #BolderAdventures

#ThailandMalaysiaJava

So did I ever get to take the flight back to Bangkok after taking so much alcohol? Surprisingly, made it with the help of Apple and a very considerate driver. Flight was scheduled to depart Yangon at 8am, woke up at 6am took my bag went running like crazy. Outside the building, I was just hoping for the best. Then there was a taxi parked in front and I took my chance to take it, only wiTh $4 in my pocket. Not enough to reach the destination with a cab, it was just a miracle when the driver agreed and took the route to the airport. Miracle. Hangover in an international flight, woke up in Bangkok (Don Mueang International Airport) scorching.

Thailand (writing this story while listening to Let Her Go by Passenger as a tribute to my friend Tom Upfield)


BANGKOK- Again. Yep whatever route to take, it always come back to this capital city. So this time, I took the chance to be a tourist (yep, not a traveler) for a couple of days. The result was unbelievable. So where’s the best place to be a turista in BKK? I say, KHAO SAN ROAD! For the reason that everything is here, cheap food and accommodation, places of interests (temples), tour companies and party til down places. The first time I was here was a layover from Cambodia before taking my flight back to Manila. This was introduced to me by a good friend, Martin Wevers. But honestly, I decided to stay here because my hangover froze my brain that I can’t think so much aside from imagining an AC room with a good bed. So from the airport, took the bus to Mochit Station (just ask around how to get to Khao San Rd) for 35baht and transferred to another non AC bus (i think Bus 3). To my surprise, there was no one to take my fare from Mochit to Khao San Rd in the non AC Bus. There are also buses in Mochit station that go to Cambodia and Thai countryside. The Chatuchak Market is also located near the bus stop. So there I was inside the red bus still scorching, dizzy and telling myself, “I will not drink too much again (repeat nth times).” Reached Khao San Rd, tried to check some hostels however I was just too weak to walk more and settled in one of the places along the main road that costs $6 for an AC bed with wi-fi and selfish roommates. Yes, those two women talking loud and did not share the fan (the AC was turned off during the day) added to the undesirable weakness eating my spirit. So I slept for a few hours and woke up to their noise (b*tch*s). Guess I accepted the life of a budget tourist which includes this kind of perks. I strolled around Khao San for a few hours and decided to look for a better bed (or should I say better roommates), I found one just a few blocks from the entry point of Khao San fronting a 7-11 shop (hahaha more yogurt drinks!). Apology for forgetting the names of the places I stayed, hangover. The following day, I immediately packed my bag and transferred to my new hostel. My active roommies, Puerto Rican and Japanese guys and an Israeli girl, also the AC was better lol. The next five days, spent rambling the old city center. Yep, everything was roaming distance, like the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha, Parks and bus stop (where I took the red bus to MBK if I had enough with the old stuff). The highlights of this Bangkok chapter were my adventures with Tom (my friend from Laos trip) and the unlimited pad Thai/spring rolls. Tom, being a man of his words allowed me to watch THE PING PONG SHOW, with his supervision along with a bunch of other male tourists. Good thing though, my new roommate (Brazilian Girl) decided to go with us. The show was expensive, priced at 500baht first  but the guys bargained and we took it at 300baht ($10) in a VIP room.

  • PINGPONG Show I have this feeling this is not legal in Bangkok as we were brought to an unknown, with not many people area and was searched thoroughly before getting inside a dark room with a small stage in the center. The next thing I knew, I was seeing something I could not even describe. Guests (mostly guys, tourists and a few locals) with astound faces, so was ME. First run, I was in disbelief of how these women (performers) can do so much with their pelvic muscles and vagina. To be honest, the it felt like WOW there’s so much to learn from this show and it felt like women can do more things than men. As the show went on, I saw a different aura. Women, with sad faces being forced to this kind of activity to earn money and survive. I was thinking, did they even have a choice before they got into this, will they ever make another way of living with that choice? The men were cheering and my friend was just…ahm enjoying himself. My heart bleed profusely. We headed back to Khao San after the second re-run of the entire pingpong show. Until that midnight, me and my Brazilian roommie discussed this show with disgust and disbelief.
  • TEMPLES (more than one can count) and Market– Yep, once in Khao San area the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha etc are just walking distance. Most of the temples have fee like GP for 500Baht, RB for 100baht and so on. There were some free temples too but you need to walk around and go to the alleys. We decided to take the reclining buddha, and it was well worth the 100baht. I could have done better though (pretend to be local) but nevermind, i might get busted lol. Also the nearby Wat Arun was worth the visit for a sunset feels. I did not do any floating Market trip, too lazy and not interested in shopping as Khao San itself is good enough.
  • FOOD, Drinks and Accommodation– there is an unlimited supply of clean street food ranging from barbecue, local Thai rice meals, fruits and of course Pad Thai and spring rolls ranging from 25baht to 60baht. Also fresh fruit shakes, juices and teas are just around every corner costing 20-30baht. This area is also flooded with both hotels and hostels. AC bed in a hostel cost 180-200 baht while non AC can go as low as 100 baht, be patient in looking around.
Wat Arun, Bangkok

Wat Arun, Bangkok

Reclining Buddha, with THE Tom Upfield

Reclining Buddha, with THE Tom Upfield

Khao San Road gift

Khao San Road gift

After the pingpong show encounter, I decided to slow down and reconnect with my soul. Enough of being a tourist, be a traveler, a wanderer an old soul living for the moment with fun and caution. It was time to get into something spiritual, Meditation retreat. With the help of the internet, I was able to find a retreat down south scheduled few days from the time I read about it. Signed up and prayed to God I would be able to get in. I badly needed it. So there, the universe conspired, with an email informing me to get ready and go to Dipabhavan Retreat Center in Koh Samui.

Koh Samui (or Samui)– one of the three more popular Thai islands in the Central Gulf Coast in Southern Thailand. Almost twelve hours away from Bangkok with bus and ferry ride priced at 620baht. I got my ticket from the bus station itself  but its even cheaper to get it from some of the travel agents around Khao San, at least no need to pay for fare from Khao San to Bus station and the agency usually include transfer from hostel to the bus station. Wrong move. The trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui was smooth, traveling around Thailand has always been easy and safe. From Nathon pier where the bus stopped, I still had to take a 100baht  songthaew ride to my hostel located to other side of the island. This place was too touristy and rude. People tried to rip me off every time I got out of my hostel. So I decided to buy stuff in the market and decided to hangout inside my 150 baht double room with toilet, tv and strong wifi. I had to restrain myself from going to the beach to avoid changing hearts for the meditation.

  • Dipabhavan Meditation Retreat– This is a seven-day silent retreat held in the mountains of HuaThanon, just the perfect place to calm the mind and rejuvenate the soul. The retreat included yoga so I had to sign up when I saw this. This activity made so much impact in my journey and life wandering. People who organized this were kind and knowledgeable with the technicalities of meditation, yoga and Buddhism. Simple but significant way of spending seven days. Moreover, I came to appreciate the vegan world. The best part, meeting strangers who became my brothers and sisters to this wonderful world. Sign up now and feel the soul re-emerge from the darkest deepest sense of being.
  • Samui Beach Life– After seven days, yes I was back in the cruel scene of touristic island life. A day after I got out of the retreat, I got sick. Guess my body was not used to the unclean existence but hey, this is life. Not ideal but real. However this imperfect life brought me some memorable experience and strangers. One of them was Noah, my roommate and theflashpacker who was trying to be a backpacker. We shared good times together like shopping (normalflashpacker activity) hanging out over food and paddle boarding.Guess I was lucky to have met the right people to be with.Samui was  a bit expensive, with AC dorm bed at 220 baht (Checksamui hostel), food ranging60-100baht, fruit shake 60 baht and glassmojitos at80baht (street prices). Four days in this place, Noah along with his friend Alfie decided to move to nearby island KohPhangan for the half-moon party. Coincidentally, my brothers and sisters from the retreat invited me to join them in the same island. So all three of us traveled to KohPhangan for200baht one hour ferry ride.
    Samui Beach

    Samui Beach

    Dipabhavan Meditation Sisters and Brothers Photo by: Dipabhavan Facilitators

    Dipabhavan Meditation Sisters and Brothers
    Photo by: Dipabhavan Facilitators

    Paddle Boarding in Samui with Noah

    Paddle Boarding in Samui with Noah at 200baht/hour

Koh Phangan-–A.K.A the full moon party island. Nope, just the full moon, also the half moon, the jungle and whatever party one can think of. But more than the parties, this island boast attractive and quiet beaches.Unlike Samui, where tourists are everywhere, this place is just too big for all the partying visitors. Best place to settle in the beaches of Sri Thanu for affordable cottage 200baht for fan double bed with toilet with enchanting sunset right outside your place. For hostels, better to stay in Thong Sala or Baan Tai area. I would strongly recommend to stay in Hard Road Hostel for 150baht (non peak rate, for more information, please visit their website http://www.hardroadkohphangan.com/hostel.php) per night, this backpacker accommodation has swimming pool, billiard table, football field, table tennis facilities and has the best pre-half/full moon parties. Also, its near the beach and some cheap restaurants.

  • Full/Half Moon Party-– The first day we landed in Hard road, it was the half-moon party. Originally, we (me and my roommates Noah, Alfie, Adri, Ofir, Rotem and Noy) planned to go. However, something alarming happened to me that led to missing the half-moon party. Stalker issue (for real). However, the full moon party was a different story. I decided to go with my meditation sisters Elena and Natasha and roommie Adri. Entry fee was 100baht but if you came after midnight, its free. It was a night full of coffee and dancing. Yup, there’s no way I would take alcohol to be able to enjoy this party. But be ready to take a plunge into a different party scene.The party was located in stretch of Haadrin Beach with most of the tourists bringing alcoholic beverages. We just danced the night away, like meditation. The morning scene though was awful. Wasted party goers sleeping at the beach full of trash, strangers making out and stoned people still partying.
  • Beach hopping–this is an everyday activity and after ten days, I can still say that time was too short to be able to see the entire island. We went as far as the beach up north and passed the Haadrin beach down south. We went to places that we were the only people sitting in the white sand while admiring the peace. Best sunset with the love of family. Also free snorkeling in some areas if you bring your own gear.
  • Food and fresh fruit shakes (every day)– Yup, its right. I still had some 7-11 days but the Thong Sala food market was too hard not to fall in love with. Lanzones for 25baht/kilo, coffee, vegan food and fresh fruit shake for 30baht. Or  rice meals with big portions at 50baht.
my personal spot in one of the many secluded beaches in KP

my personal spot in one of the many secluded beaches in KP

Full Party til morning with Natasha, Elena some new friends

Full Party til morning with Natasha, Elena some new friends

Then one day, I realized my visa will be expiring soon (like 48hrs or so). Panic galore. Where to go? KRABI. Another town south of Thailand just near the border to Malaysia. Ferry and bus ticket combo cost 560baht. Two nights in Krabi, enough time to say good-bye to my beloved Thailand.

KRABI- did nothing. hahahaha Plan.Eat.Yoga.Walk Around repeat for two days. Me and two German guys (Tim and Cenan) who were actually my roommies in Hard Road just went around and planned to go to Ao Ng beach on the last day, but yeah we were too lazy to do so. Instead, we just hang out in our hostel with our gadgets.The best thing about Krabi was the kind family who brought me to my hostel from the bus station. It just melted me when I paid for my ride and they told me ” No, just enjoy Thailand.”  I knew, I did. So before I get busted, I had to go.Away from Thailand crossing to Malaysia.

Notes:

  1. Rent a bike or a motorbike. Way cheaper to go around, 100baht/day + fuel. This can be shared by three people.
  2. Eat/drink outside the hostel/bar.
  3. Stay on the safe side and be with trustworthy people
  4. Party responsibly and do not bring valuables to the beach/party.
Normal sunset in Happy Bungalows in Sri Thanu

Normal sunset in Happy Bungalows, Sri Thanu Beach, KP

One of those hidden escape in KP

One of those hidden escape in KP


MALAYSIA (Life Happens by Brandon and Leah for my Coouchsurfing friends Sami, Kla, Azwin, Katie, Roy, Nacho, Csabi and that Argentinian roommate in Love Lane)

:-) Very interesting Malaysia

🙂 Very interesting Malaysia

Pulau Pinang, Malaysia– Island near the Thai border and center of street art for Malaysia. I am no artist, but I was treated to a creative one month stay in this place. No, not just the drawings, paintings in the street, but most especially the food culture. From beach to mountains to the colorful streets, Penang was a beautiful surprise to my aching heart when I left Thailand. The city of Georgetown fascinated me with street art and food. Whereas the countryside seemed like a copy of what I saw during my travel in the Philippines. Tears, no, just teary eyes. Most of all, the people I met here made me feel I was home. We went around eating simple Malaysian dishes (from Indian to Chinese to Malay to specialty vegan food). We also went to some areas not written in the lonelyplanet books and reviews, thanks to the knowledge of KLA and Chen. Who would have thought that I could be a volunteer in a specialized restaurant that liberated me from the social prison I was in.

  • Walking Tour— Stroll around George Town by night and be surprised with how street art is giving this city vibrancy. Do the museum, temple and mosque tour in the morning  be surprised that some flyers can pass as postcards. Try to get to the old Chinese fishing village near the port or go to the Monday market.Ask my friend KLA, he brought us to places only locals know. Also try to trek the Penang Hill. We tried but failed because the police did not allow us, we were all foreigners.
  • Food Escapade– This is just everywhere. Start at the Chulia Road, great mix of food for as low as 3RM ($1). Try going to hawker stalls and get the famous CENDOL. Or enjoy the Indian snack, Naan with garlic. Maybe some Cantonese food in Chinatown? or traditional Nasi Lemak with Kopi. Try some vegan restaurants too like Sushi Kitchen, hahaha I can eat here every day (or I did for almost 10 days).
  • Couchsurfing– Penang has a big CS community so get involve. Meet the helpful souls from Penang. Not for free accommodation but real experience of living in Malaysia.
  • Shop– hahaha okay guilty. There’s Little India and the traditional market that offer souvenirs and inexpensive clothes. Or if lucky, and its Diwali season, try shopping in the malls with imported brands like H&M, Polo, Giordano, Levi’s and many more. Yeah, i got bikinis from H&M for five dollars
  • Activities– beach time in BatuFerringhi or head to the next islandLangkawi, be respectful. I did not wear bikini as a show of respect to the women in Malaysia. Or go wall/rock climbing with the owners of Sushi Kitchen. Be a volunteer. Visit the nearby towns like Alon Star.
    Enjoy the street Art of Penang

    Enjoy the street Art of Penang

    The Old Chinese Fishing Village with Couchsurfing friends Kla and Azwin. With my Team Cambodia Ella and Sam Photo by: Azwin

    The Old Chinese Fishing Village with Couchsurfing friends Kla and Azwin. With my Team Cambodia Ella and Sam
    Photo by: Azwin

    Weird and beautiful Penang

    Weird and beautiful Penang

Melaka- Another heritage town south of Malaysia four hours from Singapore. Yep, I came to this town when I needed a place to crash because my host in Singapore kicked me out of his house. Stayed for a week in a beautiful condominium unit in the heart of Melaka. Thanks to my couchsurfing host (now friend) Nacho Lazaga. This town is  smaller than George Town, with a different vibe. It felt like I was in Dutchland. The Dutch influence was everywhere. Best to walk around and feel the past. Don’t forget to eat in Jonker Night Market or in any local restaurant. Sorry, I had nothing much to say because I had explored the area for one day, spent five days just hanging out in the swimming pool of my hosts’ place and in the nearby mall. Nacho was too kind to bring me to some food hubs and our favorite was the local restaurant near his unit lol! Also, I enjoyed my movie time for 8RM (close to $3), Dracula Untold. It felt like I was living in Malaysia for awhile. I just hate to leave.

Dutch in Malaysia

Dutch in Malaysia

Just One day Melaka

Just One day Melaka

Notes:

  • Average food expense $2 (6RM)/meal
  • Malaysia is safe and respects women, so dress appropriately
  • Train travel is cheaper than taking the bus (Penang to KL was 18RM/$6
  • Accommodation can be as cheap as $5 for non AC bed in a hostel
  • Penang has no city train, only city buses with number codes for specific routes
  • There’s a bus from KL Sentral Station and Melaka Bus station that goes to KLIA 1 and 2
  • There’s a nearby place for trekking in Melaka (according to Nacho).
  • Sushi Kitchen accepts volunteers, please check their facebook page for more information.

After one month in Penang, I had to leave for Indonesia. And after one month of being away in Malaysia, came back through Melaka for a week then flew to Manila.


INDONESIA (Thinking out loud dedicated to my surfmate Janine Jose and my Team Bali Zoe and Jorden)

Jakarta- another crazy capital city that I would want to avoid, but just couldn’t. The plan was to reach Bali for less than $100 from Penang. With this in mind, bought a flight to this city from KL for $30 from Malindo Air (includes 30kg baggage allowance). Originally, I will stay for a day but my host in Yogyakarta told me that it was not a good idea. So it was just a a seven hour layover. I prepped up for an ugly scene based on what I have read, but surprisingly my arrival was hassle free. I even had the chance to chance clothes in the clean airport toilet. Also there’s a bus on the left side of the arrival area exit that goes to the city center and nearby towns. I had no plans of strolling in Jakarta so I decided to take a bus (35000 IDR or $3.5) that goes directly to the train station. I was planning to buy overnight train tickets to Yogyakarta, sleep at the station while waiting for my departure. Upon arriving at the Gambir Train Station, I got lost. By asking around, I found my way to the ticket section. It did help that the guy assisting me was patient to look for the cheapest ticket to Jogja. He was hesitant though to get me this trip as the departure was on the dark side of Jakarta, Pasar Senen station. No way, I wouldn’t pay for a $25 train just because I was too scared to walk in the cryptic street of Indo. So I convinced him to book me that $19 seat. Now my dilemma was how to get to that station safely. Just when I was in the mood to plan, my tummy started talking to me, geh I need to eat. So I did and then I met two Indo students who were convincing passengers to help their organization through donation. I got interested and listened to their spiel. However, that intention led to us three hanging out in the nearby National Monument Plaza. They were kind enough to offer to bring me to some attractions but at that moment, I was just too tired from Train-flight connection. It was not a wasted afternoon though as we witnessed another stunning sunset. Then I had to go. They were too worried for me, taking the train in Senen, I started to worry too. But its too late now. One of the students handed me his excess train card so I can take the city line to Senen. Such an angel. In the station, I was surprise by the group of passengers trying to get into the train, sh*t it was like taking the MRT-LRT lines in Manila during peak hours. Survival of the strongest. I waited until there’s no more crowd, but it was futile. People kept coming in and pushing around and my train to Jogja will leave soon. So, just like how I brave the Manila lines, I got through the next train and survived it. Getting off at the destination was even more cruel, my gosh, my body was already outside the train while my backpack was still inside. I had to pull it with all my strength. Victorious but clueless where to go next, lol. My brain was in coma for a few minutes, no Senen station in sight. So here comes the panic attack and miracles. First was the attendant telling me the direction to the station and the short yet unsafe distance I had to walk. Relieved, my legs started moving to a low lighted street towards my destination. Fifteen minutes later, I was walking in darkness whispering my personal prayer of gratitude and safety with people staring at me as moved pass them. My body was shaking in fear and alertness. Yet another miracle appeared, a police officer telling me that I am almost in my target. And he was right, there it was, beaming with light, Senen Railway station. There I was almost in tears for what it felt like my worst walk.The train ride brought me to dreamland that I missed my original stop, ended up at the last station where my CS host picked me up.

my first Indonesian friends at the National Monument

my first Indonesian friends at the National Monument

Jakarta Final Destination--Senen Railway Station

Jakarta Final Destination–Senen Railway Station

Yogyakarta– the home of the Marlioboro Cultural street. Traditional healers. Stunning temples. Good-hearted friends. Reunion site for my Myanmar CSMate Taryn. My host invited me to meet his cousin who owns a travel agency who never persuade me to buy his services but I did when I saw my friend’s name on the list of the people taking the Borubodur tour the following day. We took the morning tour to avoid the group of tourists during the day time so we had the temple to ourselves until people started coming in and asking pictures of my two foreigner friends (yep I looked like a local). There were students trying to ambush us to practice their English skills. We gave in for a while but it was too exhausting that we had to decline the other invitations. By the way, the entry fee was $20 (with a cup of coffee or tea) but if you have a student card (with no expiry date), a 50% discount is available. Hey, I got mine, seven-year old ID from Silla University (South Korea). Although I have seen equally magnificent icons for the past months, this did not fail me. It was magical in its own way.However, like all other tourist destination, sellers flock this area. It’s also located outside Yogya city center but could be reached by a motorbike or bicycle but I opted to get the transport for 70000IDR($7) with free breakfast. On the same day, I also had the chance to enjoy a long walking meditation along Malioboro street. Just observing how a normal Javanese life happens, getting that odd look from the locals I would pass. Too local to be a tourist. Miracles just kept on arriving at my doorstep. The owner of the agency, offered to take me to a traditional healers to try their method for my previous back injury but we have not found one practicing at that time. We drove to the countryside the whole day but did not find one.It did not feel that bad, just hanging out with these two locals and talking about traditions were more than enough to compensate the unfinished project. The same friends allowed me to take a plunge in the local food culture, eating in the streets of Jogja with less than $1 meal. I could have stayed for a couple of days more but I had to reach my next destination.

Eat local.Pay Local

Eat local.Pay Local

THE MARLIOBORO Street

THE MARLIOBORO Street

Bells bells in Borobudur

Bells bells in Borobudur

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple

Notes:

  • Duration (Route 2): September 10-November 7 2014
  • Total Expenses: $600
  • Accommodation: Couchsurfing; cheap bed cost at $3
  • Food: $5/day

More than three months on the road and having fun! Simply enjoyed every waking day and the company of different personas. But it’s not done yet. The daily unfamiliar became the comfort zone. Maybe its about time to reconnect with someone and something familiar and close to my heart. 🙂

The SouthEast Asia Wandering (Route 1)

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#surfyogadiveBIKE

#LaosNorthThailandMyanmar

Packed. Ready to move. Destination: SouthEast Asia

Bangkok. Yes, start somewhere. Most of the backpackers start in Bangkok because its cheaper. I did too because it happened that a previous round trip ticket has been purchased with my cousins. It was a short layover. We explored the shopping areas except Chatuchack weekend market. We had the luxury to stay in a decent hotel near MBK Mall. Very convenient for a shopping trip. We also had the chance to taste both the local transportation and the ultimate ASIAN tourist trap, tuktuk. More of Bangkok in the second leg of my trip.

LAOS

Thailand shares border with some SEAsian countries and one of them is LAOS. Laos happened to be the only destination from Bangkok that could be reached with an overnight train. So what? Well, remember the first time Harry Potter got into Hogwarts? I did fancy that 🙂 and so it was a very Hermoineish experience with the overnight train to Vientiane. It was made more interesting when a group of monks were waiting too. The train is located in Hua Lamphong Railway station that could be reached by bus,  LRT-MRT and taxi. Aircon seat cost 600Baht ($20). Taxi from Bangkok City Hotel (Petchaburi Road) to Hua Lamphong reached 80Baht ($2.75). There are food stalls inside the train station however, there are more interesting restaurants outside. I was able to find a coffee shop just a few blocks from the main entrance of the station where I charged my ipad and treat myself to a sumptuous meal. The train departed at around 8PM and arrived 7AM the following day. Aircon ticket comes with a free blanket and they serve food and drinks with minimum fee. I had my single window seat instead of the usual double seater couch. It was a smooth train ride and woke up to a sunrise with a view of the countryside. Arriving at the Thai border, everyone was requested to transfer to another smaller train that was used to cross to Laos side cost 50baht. This border crossing was easy, just follow the other passengers and make sure to buy the border ticket first prior to boarding the smaller train. Upon arrival in the Laos side, fill out the arrival form and pay 30baht to the immigration officer and exit to the minivan terminal. The border is a bit far from the city proper so I had to bargain myself out for a good ride, settled at 100baht. Off we went. This border is special to me as I met my two sisters here, Motomi and Kotone.

Hua Lamphong Station Entrance

Hua Lamphong Station Entrance

The Hermoineish Train to Laos

The Hermoineish Train to Laos

Vientiane-– where everything and everyone seems to be in chill spirit. This capital city was a stunner to me, simple and old school. My favorite part of the city was the morning market with cheap fruits and trousers. Also the afternoon stroll near the Mekong River. Moreover, I met some great people who played important role in this rambling. Okay, with all honesty, i fell in love with and in this city. Stayed at Vientiane Backpackers Hostel at $5/night with free breakfast, AC bed and wifi also walking distance from everything. My food was not so cheap, lol may be around $5/day because i always bought so much fruits for five days. Places to visit were just within the city, try to walk around or rent a bike ($2/day) to stroll. Two days is enough but I stayed for five days. Yes that’s what love can do.I thought so.

Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane, Laos

Vang Vieng— this was not part of my original itinerary. Again blame it to ahem emotional imbalance, lol. Anyway, bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng depends on the quality, cheapest was $3 (30,000 Laotian Kip). Trip is around 3-4 hours. My hell on Earth. Sorry A, Jemal and Tom, but I’ve said this before, I never liked this place.This was a place for party, drinking, drugs and sex. Although I had my best times here, like biking with no light except the moon, jumping off a tree to a river, best sandwich for $2 and a cool place to hangout.Paid $8 for a triple fan room (less than $3/night each bed) at Johnny’s GuestHouse with own toilet, wifi and unlimited crazy people to goof around. Also we went on a water tubing at $6 with unlimited party along the riverside. Stayed for f*cking seven days, yeah, couldn’t believe it too.

Vang Vieng View from a restaurant

Vang Vieng View from a restaurant

Luang Prabang–the expensive Laos. Everything was just 2000kip more! Although most of the interesting places to see are biking distance. The best part of it was the Kuang Si waterfall trek as well as the morning Monk parade. Also, the night market was crazy with buffet and expensive souvenir. Imagine eating a $1 vegan dinner buffet with noodles, veggies, crackers, fruits and rice. Just bring water/drinks. Also a good place to watch the sunset and LP city center is Mount Phousi. Make sure to please stay in SpicyLaos Backpackers hostel for $3 fan dorm bed with clean toilet, free activities like countryside picnic, swimming pool excursion etc. And a place to hangout with both locals and tourists. Stayed for four days and take note of the next destination as the bus stations are outside the city center and trip would cost 30,000Kip ($3). Opted to take the night bus to Huay Xai to cross the border to North Thailand. Unfortunately, the night bus from LP to Huay Xai was a nightmare. I had a male local seatmate who tried to touch and get hold of me while i was covered with blanket and sleeping. But I did not allow it to happen and fought hard. I tried to shout but he pretended to be asleep and so were the other passengers. So I was awake the whole night and every time he tried to hold me, I hit him as hard as I can until he stopped. By the morning, when I was about to get off the bus, I pushed him one more time.

Kuang Si Falls, near Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls, near Luang Prabang Photo by: Anatol Noser

Early morning monk procession in Luang Prabang

Early morning monk procession in Luang Prabang

North Thailand– The mountain area separated by Mekong River from Laos and Myanmar from the Golden triangle area. From the town of Huay Xai, its easy to get to Chiang Rai with a Thai bus company at 320baht.

Chiang Rai- my personal Thai favorite in terms of temples and fruits. This was a quiet place and a good place to do temple hopping without having to worry about entry fees. The food especially the fruits were cheap! Although the dorm rooms were cheap, the quality is not as good as in Laos. Also, places of interests can be reached through public transport like the Golden Triangle (50 baht one way) and the elegant White temple (25baht one way). Just go to the old bus station inside the city center and make a choice. I stayed with a family owned hostel to which I was the only customer. The wifi was awesome (i think the best of Thailand). Food would cost $1/meal for rice and veggies, around $3 for rice and meat. Local fruits rambutan, lanzones, mangosteen and longan were at less than $1. Dorm bed 90baht ($3/night). Also most signs have English translation.Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai bus cost 144 Baht ($5)

The White Temple, Chiang Rai

The White Temple, Chiang Rai

The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle

Chiang Mai- where the past sits beside the present. This town is divided into the old city center (enclosed by the old walls) and city proper. This town is home to Thailand’s most nature activities like trekking, animal farms and waterfalls among others. The best part of this town was my couchsurfing experience with Carol’s place. Also, the Sunday walking market was my personal favorite as it showcased different locally made unique products and cheap delicious pancake and pad Thai :-). Also, most of the oldest temples were just around the corner and free. For the first time too, I was able to watch an English movie and paid less than watching it in Manila! Also 7-11 was the best option for cheap food and drinks. Oh how I got used to drinking yogurt every meal, lol! But I got sick here, fever and then after a week, food poisoning. But my admiration to this touristy town did not fade. There are many options to where to go next, Pai or Chiang Rai but I opted to rush to the Thai-Burmese border in Mae Sot as my visa was set to expire. From, CM, take a bus to Tak then a minivan to Mae Sot.

Chiang Mai Old City Center

Chiang Mai Old City Center

Banana Mango Pancake

Banana Mango Pancake

the walk to the Doi Suthep Temple located on top of a Mountain

the walk to the Doi Suthep Temple located on top of a Mountain

Mae Sot (Thailand)- Myawaddy (Myanmar/Burma) Border Crossing: If planning to use this border to get to Myanmar, check the calendar as the way in and out of Myawaddy has a schedule patterned to even and odd days.

MYANMAR/BURMA

HPA-AN- is the stop over town in southern Myanmar, four  to five hours away from the Myawaddy border. Small but very interesting. The journey to Hpa-an though was challenging and watery.Rough road and heavy rain were not a good company during my trip. From Myawaddy border, walk a few meters and then a couple of locals will be ready to offer a sit in their private car for as much as 10,000kip (990 kip=$1) or take a bus straight to Yangon for 12 hours at 15000kip. Unfortunately for me, my pocket had (or pretended to have) 7000kip. Nobody wanted to take ME. But there was this man who saw my desperate plea and asked me to follow him a few meters beyond the group of private cars. Yeah, he took me but with a twist. ME, the foreigner, had to pretend to be a local in every check point we had to go through on the way to Hpa-An. No sweat but hell, I was scared, made it in one piece. So how do you pretend to be a local? Wear sunglasses  and act asleep with open mouth, lol. Although it was raining, ME did not stop from exploring the place which led to meeting my uncle Ben. Uncle Ben who took me to a motorbike adventure under the rain around nearby places of interest like Saddar Cave and Temple, Kyauk Ka Lat Lake but we missed the famous Zwegabin Hill. We had to brave through the ugliest rough road with mini mud lakes yet every difficulty became the ultimate adventure. Not to mention the good spirits we met along the way. Too bad I had to leave very soon to Yangon where my couchsurfing hosts KimAndAlisa were excited to meet me :-).

hpa-2

Saddar Cave with the kind-hearted monk who gave me his raincoat 🙂

HPA-AN

Kyauk Ka Lat Lake

YANGON- The journey from Hpa-an lasted for roughly 6 hours with a low quality bus that cost 6000kip, not bad. Please note that the bus station in Yangon is outside the city center but almost near to Yangon airport. Condition is not good either, with chaotic system. Upon arrival, and with the instruction of my crazy hosts, I chose to take the local bus to the city center. The backpacker section is located near the Sule Pagoda, the final destination of the bus from the Aung Mingalar Bus station (overcrowded city bus costs 200kip or $0.25). My hosts’ abode was located in Pearl Condominium, just on the way to the center, I did realize this when my bus passed through  the area. Instinct told me to stop and get down, but lo and behold, my tongue was tied and the muscles in my mouth were immovable, ME ending in the city center, away from my original destination. To my beautiful surprise, the streets of Yangon were oozing with sexiness, crazy! I fell in love. No words can express my emotional disaster. Whew, the faces of the world right in front of me. Also, the Burmese were just soooooooo kind and friendly.It was already almost dark and I can’t get a bus and a cab to top it all, my energy was just depleting. But the universe was ready to take me out of the boiling misery, a group of strangers standing beside me trying to get a cab, approached me and asked my destination and yes, fate had that we were all heading to one direction. They were students going back to uni to attend a class. We got into the cab and because I was too happy, offered to pay the half of the total cost ($2). The walk around the city center was fascinating with a perfect blend of Burmese culture. I could say that I felt safe too. I was walking around 8pm just after watching the Myanmar-Philippines Football game in one of the restaurants and everyone was so nice and helpful. Although the Philippines lost that game, the Burmese crowd in the restaurant were friendly and still congratulated me and did not ask for any payment nor any order from me during the duration of the game (kapal ko di ba). But the most exciting activity was when I pretended to be a Burmese (of course with complete costume, a local skirt I bought from the infamous Bogyoke Aung San Market for 3000kip). Almost all places of interests in Yangon ask for a certain fees, the most expensive is Shwedagon Pagoda (8000kip). So I tested my costume and my Asian beauty. I followed a local going inside the Pagoda and kept all my touristy stuff like camera, water and shades. Act like a local, pay like a local. So I did, almost. After spending some time admiring the Pagoda under the heat of the sun, I decided to go out, and then just like that, someone spoke in English. My brain just reacted and well, they got me. The guides interviewed me and as they were wondering why I was not wearing a tourist badge, I went away as fast as I can as if I used a teleportation spell like in that Harry Potter movie. The next test was at the People’s Park just near Shwedagon. At first attempt, total failure because they spoke to me in Burmese, no clue. Okay, another idea, use the backdoor. Again, epic fail. They saw my camera and spoke to me in Burmese, again fail.Paid more than the entry fee.Okay, consoled myself by making a mental note that the $5 saving from Shwedagon was used to pay for the lake for $3 so I still saved $2 plus a new skirt. One more test was to purchase the ticket from Yangon to Bagan just near the ooooold train station. To be honest,I could get that $10 bus with a local price but the agents just refused to because they might get busted once I would give my passport for identification. Tried asking the reason for the fare difference and they told me because Burmese people are poor, told them and myself, “so do I.” It wasn’t too convincing. But still, refused to get into a bus that would make me feel bad, so I asked around and found out that there’s a new bus company that offers the equal price regardless of nationality but more expensive though. Just to calm my bleeding ego, I took it, $15. Yeah yeah but more than expensive bus ride and the accommodation, the food was just crazy cheap. One dollar meal included unlimited rice, veggies, fish, curry and one liter of mineral water. But the fruits were expensive, so more rice meals for me, hahahaha! Also the public transport with Yangon was easy to learn just like how it works in Philippines and also affordable. Taxis were not expensive either. More to say, the streets of Yangon was just so full of faith, of all types coexisting peacefully. It was heaven on Earth for me. Awwwww tears tears.

THE Shwedagon Pagoda

THE Shwedagon Pagoda

Yangon by day

Yangon by day

Helene as Burmese

Helene as Burmese

Sule Pagoda Yangon,city center

Sule Pagoda Yangon city center

BAGAN–Majestic. Just it. And a lot of biking 🙂 Seriously, this was like Angkor Wat multiplied 10 times but less expensive, $15 for five days. Bike rental cost $2 per day.Also the entire town can be cycled even until Mandalay, next town. Just be prepared as the sun can kill. Though this place is crowded with all types of tourists, the people are distributed to the many unique pagodas scattered within the town (you can even choose your own place to watch the sunset alone). The sunset was crazy but Ceedi was just not ready to capture, but my heart did. Before the biking story, let me go back to the bus ride I took from Yangon to Bagan (maisingit lang). So this fifteen dollar overnight bus came with a blanket, reclining seat, toiletries and food (coffee/tea and cup cake) with a cute seatmate :-). Since I had previous negative experience, I was more careful. But my heart melted because I felt that my seatmate was so cautious and careful not to even touch my side of the seat, awwwww. Every single instance that I opened my eyes because of some small movement, he apologized. So I thought, if I would get the chance to talk to him, I’ll make pa-cute to the nth level (boompanes). It never happened. And to my surprise, the bus station in Bagan was located outside the city center and not walking distance.Holy green, since I had a good sleep, walking was the only option. Stupid decision however ego kept on  reminding me to go on. Okay walk, walk, walk. Another option was hitchhiking, failed. Until a private car (used as taxi) offered a free ride, I gave in. The driver brought me to my hostel just cycling distance from all the prominent pagodas. I still gave the driver $1 for the gasoline, hahaha conscience. The next couple of days were spent cycling around the town enjoying the magical world constantly bumping to my cute bus seatmate, who would smile at me. Also discovering the places, not included in my itinerary. These incidentals were even better than the original plan. However, on my second day, the heat was just too much that I experienced extreme headache. So I decided to go back to Yangon to wait for my flight back to Bangkok the following day. Paracetamol was not able to ease the pain. Food was slightly expensive compared to Yangon. On my last day in Bagan, I woke up to a simple breakfast and joined two German uni students. The next thing I knew, it was already 6pm and my bus to Yangon was waiting for me. We were talking the whole day and the topic was Asian vs German culture. It was educational and fun too hearing so much similarities between our countries. Then I had to hop inside an overcrowded bus to Yangon.

Unlimited Pagodas

Unlimited Pagodas

One of the Incidentals

One of the Incidentals

Just another magical moment in Bagan

Just another magical moment in Bagan

My own pagoda :-)

My own pagoda 🙂

Bagan Cloudy sunset

Bagan Cloudy sunset

After another overnight bus ride, I was back in KimAndAlisa’s beautiful home. Too sick and tired, I ended up sleeping the whole day. Woke up to Ally’s voice asking me if I would love to join them for a Friday’s happy night out. I did. With a new experience: drinking my first tequila shot and the cheapest mojito (less than $1/glass). Yes, being a very alcoholic tourist, I got drunk, wow so me, few hours my flight back to Bangkok. No way, too dizzy to be able to change my clothes, I felt my body landed in what felt like the softest bed I had. And the world became blurr…zzzzzzzzzzz

Notes and Prices

Duration: July 31-Sept 10, 2014

Accommodation Type: Hostel (Mixed Dorm) $3-5 or Couchsurfing

Food: $2-3/meal

Transportation/Activities (total): $150

Total Cost:$400-500

Was I able to catch my $50 flight back to Bangkok? The SouthEast Asia Wandering continues…

Dumbfound in reel

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Have you ever been broken? What happened? Why? Where?How? Impossible! All of these ideas came rushing to a mind that was still trying absorb this unwanted emotion. Pain.

Oh noh, not that kind of pain. Not just the romantic pain. Yes, there are many types of pain, and this story is a normal mid twenties heartbreak and its aftermath.

me back

Photo by: Ramces Dungog

Have you ever felt betrayed? Or told that you ain’t good enough? Maybe accused of lying to cover immature decision/s. Or questioned your financial capacity? All if these done in one instance with, guess who, the people you care the most. The souls you trust and see everyday. Those you never expected to hit you hard. And yes you still love them, we all do.

Define broken. (Note: this is based on experience) It’s a state of being shattered, not physically but in the intangible aspect of self. It comes with unwanted pain that feels like the chest is about to explode or overflowing of water from the eyes (called tears, the act of flowing tears is crying). Yet it does not happen in an instant (at least for me). It can be a result  of (mis)calculated decision or an admission of unexpected reactions/expectations. Whatever. Pain (of any form) is human nature. But it is totally different from suffering. Just to be clear, suffering is prolonged pain.

No, not just physical pain :-)

No, not just physical pain 🙂

Once in a blue moon so to say, we break. All of a sudden, seeing ourselves into tiny facets of who we are in the face of other people and our own reality. We’re not machines, we have brains that take control. It’s not too bad nor embarrassing to admit that yes we are broken (again not too often lol).No blaming nor pointing fingers to anyone, its of no help at all. Sh*t happens and its inevitable (at some point). Embrace it, do not deny nor indulge in that state.

Then, its now time to answer this, “so what now (instead of the overused cliche Where do broken hearts go)?” Pick your choice. It could be doing something or nothing. Just a reminder, the pain and state of being broken can blind the senses and can lead to further damage or maybe healing. The brain is a complex being but controllable, take extra caution when evaluating the current state.

As for me, it led to something unexpected: live on the road for months. The universe conspired with me, it was meant to be. Imagine, the original plan was two weeks and will be just around Vietnam-Laos-North Thailand-Myanmar. It did not happen, it was crazier. More to say, that pain created ME, a wandering soul who chose to walk away from the comfort and opinion of the common rascals hovering around. ME who decided to admit the state of being broken and embraced it. However, pain was not the only deciding factor, there were a couple of things too. For example, the lingering feeling of life on the road and the idea of living the dream. Holy molly, being broken resulted to a SouthEast Asia PsuedoRambling, just like that.

So how did ME prep up (of course aside from packing and booking a flight):

1. Decide to quit and start somewhere. To quit is to stop too much thinking and worrying. Listen to the universe, its always talking. Don’t try to justify, its useless.

2. Financial Analysis. Yes, just to start the journey and to ensure all liability/ies is/are settled (if applicable). Also, its good to have lifestyle check to maximize the budget. Study currency exchange and bank rates and notes to minimize unwanted expenses. It’s good to have a steady income while away, but it does not give too much freedom. Do not worry too much about the future, it will come. Carefully map out the money line like minimum/max average daily expense.

3. Plan/Research the route/places carefully. Visa fees and restrictions are important. Border immigration rules vary. Transportation/Accommodation costs can be minimized through public information. Check on the prices of commodities and places to see also look into tourist traps and the way to avoid it. Best to read blogs of travelers who have taken the same route.

4. Get a lifetime sturdy and trustworthy partner. No, not human. A bag, that thing which can carry what’s inside the closet, or at least half of it. Don’t, please, do not bring excess baggage. This will be physically painful. It doesn’t have to be fancy or branded, make sure though that it can stand in all weather and road conditions. Know the bag by heart for optimal usage.

bag n me

Me and my Backpack

5. The clothes and shoes.Once the route has been carefully studied, pack accordingly. If the route is more beachy, then by all means put all the bikinis and boardshorts with flip-flops. Otherwise, bring some decent clothes and towel that can easily dry. Or if planning to trek, hike, camp most of the time, then be ready. Take some toiletries too but do not leave it hanging around mother nature.

6. Do some medical examination. Just know the common sickness and bring medicines a.k.a first aid kit. If possible, get an insurance for the duration of the journey. Also, be physically fit and ready to eat, walk, cycle, swim and sleep anywhere anytime.

7. Gadgets and Gizmos but don’t bring too much. Decent camera will do. smartphone is okay. Take what’s needed. Most of the hostels have free computers and WiFi. If the route is good for specific activities like surfing and diving, bring flexible cameras. Also, long term travel needs more storage device and battery, so bring extra. Otherwise, do the shoot, post and delete (repeat nth times).

Ceedi--the GoPro Hero 3

Ceedi–the GoPro Hero 3

8. Security assessment. Paranoia is good. At least store the important numbers like police, embassy, family in case of emergency. Best to avoid places with current negative reports and read news about the place/route. Also maintain a social media account and record the entry and exit activities. It is also good to tell someone from home the current whereabouts so if something happens, it is easier to start the investigation.

9. Final check: Yourself. Assess values/lifestyle/state of being. Outline the negotiable and non negotiable.

Example:

Non Negotiable: trying new things except drugs of any kind and form. partying but taking no more than 1 glass (okay, or two) of mojito. Clean cheap food and drinks (excluding alcohol). ETC
Negotiable: Camping (for couple of days only), running away with someone. changing routes. ETC

Always remember, broken but not blind and stupid. In temporary pain but not rushing to heal.Do not do things that would cost a life.

love me

However, despite all of these preparation, there was still that level of uncertainty that caused some doubts and fear. Ineluctable. There’s nothing else to do but to LET IT GO. LET IT BE. Like holding a balloon and releasing it to the wind. Allowing it to be blown away and be one with the universe. Waking up one day reeling slowly and still dumbfounded in the new reality.

To Genie and the flying Carpet

Standard

Recent conversation with a diving buddy involved the idea of the best Disney movie released.We both agreed it was Aladdin and the best sound track would be “A whole new world.” We were just into the idea of a flying carpet, a blue genie and a magic lamp. We started singing the song and laugh our ass off for minutes.

Jasmine, Ariel, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tarzan and all the other Disney characters believe that there’s more to life than how we see it. The world is limitless (ideally). So what do we do with this? We take advantage, in a good and positive way. For example, living in tropical country with 7107 beautiful islands gives more than 7000 reasons to enjoy life! Oops travel stories here we go.

Honestly, I’ve been traveling all my life. My father is from the town of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur while my mother is from Negros Oriental. We were raised in Bacolod City. Family was my first travel buddy. Each of us had to carry our own luggage (mine was a small stroller bag). Then it was just me and my brothers or my cousins. Until it was just me and my backpack.

familia hk

Familia in Hongkong Photo by: Ellouise Cachero

familia

Familia in Boracay

familia sg

Familia in Singapore Photo by: Ellouise Cachero

Until I bumped into a group of young and adventure-seeking souls from my first job as a banker. When I joined them, we traveled to Baguio City(yep it was also my first time in Northern Philippines), to Pangasinan, to Sagada, to Coron, to Quezon  and etc. We became a big family. Camping, surfing, trekking and lots of picture-taking. Then it was just me and Ron or me and Gwen until it was me and my bag again.

Friends.Adventure.Best Batangas Photo by Gwen Aviles

Friendship.Adventure.Best in Batangas
Photo by Gwen Aviles

Friends.Adventure.Best Coron Photo by: Wilber Bajo

Friendship.Adventure.Best in Coron
Photos by: Gwen Aviles and Ron Raymundo

Then I met more and more traveling spirits in my next job. Traveled here and there around the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Different destination different travel buddy and unique experiences. Some were weekend trips, some were VLs. But in the end, at some point it was just me and my bag again.

Alma and Helene in KL

Alma and Helene in KL

Blockdee in Davao Photo by:Annie Ozaraga

Blockdee in Davao
Photo by:Annie Ozaraga

Blockdee in Subic Photo by: Mark Eslana

Blockdee in Subic
Photo by: Mark Eslana

Surfmates in La Union Photo by: Janine Jose

Surfmates in La Union
Photo by: Janine Jose

Karen and Helene in Puerto Princesa

Karen and Helene in Puerto Princesa

But it did not matter, whether going with a group or with my bag. With every opportunity that came, seizing it was my game. It was not about how many places I have seen but how many places saw me. It was not how long I stayed in the place, but it was more of how felt when I was there. Sometimes, it was not about the company, but that liberty to be with your company. After all, in every adventure I had, I was not alone. If Aladdin had his magic carpet and genie, I had my bag and my faith.

YinAndYang

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It’s been almost more than twenty four hours and nothing. Still no idea what to write. What’s there to tell anyway?

Nothing extraordinary. It’s just another lame story of a girl who wanted to live the life she wanted. She once dreamed of making it big in the corporate world with goals like at the age of 25, she’s going to have her MBA degree, live in her own house, drive her own car and in love with an almost perfect boyfriend. But none of it happened. She quit pursuing her graduate studies because she thought she’s too young to get stuck in the realm of old people. She found herself moving every month, discovering new places to experience. She dated some of her friends but always failing to live up to their expectations thus falling into the category of a ‘good friend.’ Nothing but the opposite of the life she wanted, or so she thought. Was it really the life she sees herself living? Or was it someone else’s plans for her? Her name is Helene and she’s wandering.

the local Banker

the local Banker Photo by: Gwen Aviles

This girl grew up in a family who nurtured her with faith (Seventh Day Adventist and Roman Catholic) and love. Parents working in the government office, two brothers and a younger sister, she became a normal teenager who graduated class valedictorian in grade school, a member of the OSY (out of school youth) group in a science high school, studied in Busan South Korea and was handed with a diploma in Marketing from University of the Philippines yet  took a job in the finance industry. A few years later, she decided to pursue her graduate degree. She was ready to make things happen. She left her first job and ventured into the multinational scene to support her studies. She was there, almost there. And then suddenly, everything became blur. She was wandering and wandering and wandering. She felt lost but she was happy.She felt someone, something, somehow everything was falling into its proper position like gravity pulling all the pieces of a puzzle. It’s in the feeling of being lost that she found herself not wandering but re-LIVING.

UP Advertising Camp team Photo by :Janelle Rio

UP Advertising Camp TEAM Vantage
Photo by :Janelle Rio

Mortgage banking days

Mortgage banking days

She quit graduate school, lived in an overcrowded dormitory with a bunch of lunatic simple and happy people, saved her salary for adventure, took the cheapest route to work, eat below her means and became a selfish persona of her own doing. She started avoiding parental calls, quit visiting her cousins and went on her own way. Her adventure even more frequent and crazier than the usual. She found her own freedom, by doing things alone. But as she continue to indulge herself to solo trips, she became more and more dependent on someone else. She would find herself murmuring to her secret companion as if asking for some miracle.It was faith that came along with her newly found independence. It was that faith that made her walk along the darkest alleys of Manila and southeast Asia when she has to. It was faith that made her trust and befriend strangers. Faith that brought her to places, experiences and people. She and her faith.

literally solewandering in Chiang Rai

literally solewandering in Chiang Rai

As her faith and selfishness grew, she became more and more eager to live her own life. After six years of being a corporista, she finally took the biggest leap. The leap to the unknown. Quit her high-paying job, packed her 15kg backpack, took her small savings and flew somewhere to start something.

This is her story and her life as a wanderer.