The Climb

We went on an adventure two weeks ago, set off early morning to Capas, Tarlac to embark on a hike to the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

The base camp in Tarlac was about 2.5 hours drive from Quezon City (northern part of Metro Manila), sans the traffic, because we left before daybreak. At the base camp, we registered with the tourism office, with the help of our tour organiser. The payment to the organiser and the tourism office are usually paid separately. Once everything was arranged, we set off on a 4×4 military-style jeep across the lahar-laden terrain.

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After a 1-hour ride on the 4×4, the vehicle parked about a large open area, and we began our 7km hike on foot. Indeed, 7km seems not so very far, but if you consider that the terrain is all volcanic sand and rocks along the banks (or rather, criss-crossing) of a mountain river, and all uphill, you will realise that it is not a walk in the park. It took us about 2.5 hours to hike the entire 7km uphill.

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The climb was all worth it. The crater lake was a beautiful sight to behold. We arrived at the crater lake mid-morning, and was still fortunate to find some shade made by the rim of the crater along the banks of the lake. We had about an hour just to sit there in the shade, look out at the lake, and just relax.

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Just recently, they have already disallowed swimming in the lake. I think they just imposed it this January (2013), for a good reason. According to stories, someone died a few weeks (or months) back, not because of drowning, but because of poisoning after ingesting water from the lake. Besides the usual sulfur, the lake is also high in other heavy chemicals, especially Arsenic, which is well known as an instant poison.

Near noon, the sun caught up with the crater and we had to seek shade, and then have lunch. There’s nothing to buy there, except for drinks which are P100 per bottle (about US$2.5, but honestly x3 of its regular price at the city). We brought chicken and rice meals with us for lunch, and different snack items we’ve been munching on throughout our climb.

After about three hours at the crater lake, we already decided to start our descent. We went down the same way we came up, and somehow the descent seemed a little bit more difficult in terms of traversing the terrain. But speed and effort was not the problem, just the balancing while shifting your weight downwards on the rocks and stones. It was one hell of a leg workout.

The return ride on the 4×4 was extremely dusty too, mainly because the terrain was a lot drier than during dawn, and there were a number of other vehicles ahead of us. It is good to have a shawl to cover the mouth and nose, and shades to cover the eyes. Covering for the head/hair is helpful too.


Some advise to those who intend to go on their own Mount Pinatubo adventure:

  • Try to look online for discounter vouchers. Or just research online the different groups and companies that organise trips to Pinatubo. Sometimes, the packages can include the transportation from Metro Manila, and even the meals. As for us, we chose to bring our own vehicles and bring our own food.
  • Keep your bag light. The most important things to bring/use are the following:
      • food – lunch; some snacks to eat along the way, such as sandwiches, cookies, and chips; candies and some sweets
      • drinks – water will do, but better to bring some hydrating drinks too such as gatorade. Best to bring at least two liters worth of fluids, unless you’re willing to spend money on the P100 drinks along the way
      • scarf, shawl, bandana or sarong – useful for a lot of instances, such as for keeping warm during the early morning, a covering for the face and mouth during the ride and the climb, and something to sit on at the banks of the crater lake… and perhaps a lot of other uses
      • hat or cap – to cover the head from the heat of the sun
      • trekking sandals – better to use this than rubber shoes, because there’s a lot of instances that you will need to cross the river
      • breathable clothes – I would advice to wear shorts or short pants, and sports shirt or singlet; bring additional clothes too, just in case you will need to change
      • light jacket – not sure if this is always applicable, but our January trip was very cold during the morning, and so the light jacket was really useful
  • Put all your stuff in a backpack

I <3 Gold Coast

Gold Coast is one of the best places I’ve ever been to. It was paradise for me. The beachfront extended long beyond what your sight can reach. They say beach extends more than 53 kilometers, that’s so much more beach than I’ll ever need in my lifetime. There’s a lot of beautiful sand to lie on. The seawater was still cold when we were there, but it had good waves worthy of a little swim or a nice surf. The main segment of the beach is even called Surfers’ Paradise, and the place is very worthy of the name.

Gold Coast, of course, boasts of its exceptional coasts and beaches. In addition, there are a lot of other recreation places and attractions in town. There’s Movieworld, Dream World, Sea World, White Water World, Wet n’ Wild, Australian Outback Spectacular, Paradise Country, among so many other attractions around.

While we were in Gold Coast, we stayed in the Surfers’ Paradise area, in the Q1 hotel. Q1 hotel is the tallest building there, and one of the tallest residential buildings in entire Australia. They had a viewdeck at the 77th floor from where you can see almost the entire Gold Coast area, and maybe even nearby areas. There is also an option to go up even further on top of Q1 to its spire, but it requires an additional pay, and you will need to be strapped to a full body harness to step outside the building at that height.

We had a VIP pass, which allowed us unlimited entry to Movieworld, Sea World, and Wet n’ Wild. We had limited time though, so we just got to go once to Movie World and Sea World, but no longer had time to go to Wet n’ Wild.

The Movie World was something similar to the Universal Studios in Singapore, both in content and in size. Would’ve been nice to stay for an entire day in Movie World. There were a lot of nice rides and shows, rollercoasters, and such. There was also a parade of their characters in the late afternoon. We got to ride the Superman rollercoaster, but we didn’t get to experience a lot of other rides because lines were so long and we only had one entire afternoon there. I enjoyed the place nonetheless

The Sea World was amazing. I’ve been to Sea World in San Diego before, but that was more than ten years ago that I can barely remember how it was. Sea World in Gold Coast was big, and it had a number of big enclosures for different marine animals – dolphins, manta rays, sea lions, and sharks, among others. There was also a huge place for some polar bears. We did watch most of the main shows, but didn’t get the time to ride the rollercoasters again.

We went to Paradise Country too, a good place to see a bit of Austalian wildlife. Of course we didn’t want to miss the chance to see koalas and kangaroos. There were also horses, sheeps, and other animals. It was just a good morning visit, and you can opt to have lunch there too. The place is just a kilometer or so from Movieworld.

We also took good time at the beaches. How can anyone not be drawn to spend time at the beaches of Gold Coast? How I wish I knew how to surf though, because it seemed a wonderful place to surf. A good place to bake under the sun to, and I love sunbathing.

A lot of people say that Gold Coast is the vacation capital of Australia, and I would totally believe them. There is so much there to enjoy, and a week is not enough to get to do everything. Perhaps you’ll just keep coming back. And yes, I plan to come back again someday.

Always Somewhere

Wherever you are, it’s always good to remember one thing – you are not somewhere else. You can only be in one place at any specific time. It’s good to acknowledge where you are at the moment. You can always try to compare, but not one place is above another. There is always the good and the bad. Sometimes we get to choose where we stay long term, but most often than not, we are helpless and we just remain where we can.

It shouldn’t be as bad as it sounds. We should never feel stuck where we are. We should learn to appreciate what is available to us wherever we are. Eat what’s available around. Drink the local sodas and beers. Visit the parks, beaches, and museums around. Go bar hopping. Whatever activity your heart desires, if you find it available where you are, then go for it. If not, then find something else to do.

We usually tend to not maximise or take advantage of experiencing what is available in our locality. I know of a lot of people who don’t really go around unless they have some visitors to take around. On the other hand, they spend so much to travel elsewhere and explore other places, when they haven’t really explored their own city or country. Even I am guilty of this. Would be great to do otherwise though.

I’m doing whatever I can here in Australia. Mostly I’m at the mercy of my family, and my schedule completely depends on them. But I do try to experience what I can with each trip and tour that we take. Still midway through my trip now, and still looking forward to the next few days of experiencing things Aussie.

After my trip, I’ll go back to my beloved Manila. Maybe I’ll spend more time exploring my own “backyard” from then on, even go shopping in the usual malls and flea markets. I will find time to visit the museums that I’ve never visited before. I’ll spend time in parks. There is no need to travel abroad elsewhere to do all these.

How well have you explored and experienced your own cities or countries?

The Traveler’s Dilemma

The Tourist vs. The Traveler

I’ve heard someone say that one should be a traveler and not just a tourist. What does that mean? Maybe it’s the difference between going on a vacation and going on an adventure. A tourist goes away to relax and enjoy as much luxury as one can afford. It involves a comfortable hotel, having recreational activities like lounging on the beach or going skiing in the mountains, and doing touristy stuff like sight-seeing and such. I am only assuming. Indeed I am partly a tourist. I’ve gone to the popular stops, joined tour groups, taken a lot of pictures of very familiar landmarks. One steps away from one’s own reality to relax a little bit, and see the things that most other people travel to see.

I do wonder if I can already consider myself a traveler. Every now and then I’ve tried to step away from the usual busy track, and try to immerse myself in what the real local scene has to offer. I usually do this by just taking a walk around. I still remember those baseball-sized buchi that we found on the side streets of Beijing. There was a time I’ve tried walking around the community in Vancouver with my little 5 year-old cousin who, turned out, don’t know a bit about where we were going. And of course my last trip in KL, which allowed me to go wherever I wanted, and as far as my body could bring me. I wonder how much of the city I would’ve explored and discovered if I had stayed a little bit longer. But that’s left to be done another time.

I am a “cowboy”, ready for anything, and perhaps that gives me the potential to be a good traveler. I’ve tried sleeping, taking baths, and traveling in certain odd and absurd ways from during my college days. Very strange to give examples now though. I may be able to take and tolerate a little below comfortable, if needed.

Maybe one should be both a tourist and a traveler. To see the usual popular things, and at the same time be able to immerse one’s self in the scenery, the culture, the people, and most especially the food. To be able to relax and be comfortable enough, but still go beyond one’s comforts to be able to discover what can be discovered.

Would you rather be a tourist or a traveler?

 

On taking pictures

I love taking pictures of beautiful places and beautiful things while traveling. I also am a frustrated photographer. But sometimes I am caught in between taking lots of pictures or just slowly moving around an soaking in the beauty. There is a certain beauty that one cannot completely experience looking behind the lens.

I tell people that when I travel and am not able to take a lot of pictures, it’s most probably because I enjoyed the trip so much. It’s true most of the time. There is that part of me that forgets about the camera when I truly enjoy what my senses capture. I forget about the camera when I am with really good friends, or having a great time with new people. I hate bringing the big, bulky camera to the beach or high up the mountains. It’s just so wonderful to experience the beauty of things around you first-hand.

How can one strike a balance between taking pictures and just enjoying the scene?

 

To travel alone / with a partner / with a group

There are pros and cons to the three possible scenarios: traveling alone, traveling with a partner, or traveling with a group. There is a beauty in each, and also a disadvantage. I’ve tried doing all, but I can’t say that I prefer one the most. Maybe the most important thing is to just enjoy the trip whether you take it alone, or with other people.

Never travel with people you HATE. You can maybe travel with people you have not yet decided on liking yet. Trips and being away from the usual hustle and bustle of life can actually catalyze any relationship. It can help jumpstart or develop relationships (not just romantic, but also friendships, work relationships, family relationships, and what-nots), or sometimes sour relationships if a trip does not go well.

Do you have a preference between traveling alone or with someone?

 

Finding one’s self while traveling

Besides catalyzing relationships, traveling and being away from the usual stuff can help one discover deeper into one’s self. When away, there are a lot of things which may be new or unfamiliar to you which can make you realize different things, both good and bad. Sometimes, the mere feeling of physically moving (while on an aircraft, ship, or land transportation) can also move your thoughts and emotions.

I love being away. It always gives me a chance to really think, to be introspective. I always try to bring a notebook and a pen when I travel (although lately the Evernote on my iPhone does the job), and I do scribble down thoughts when they come, even in the middle of my trips. There has been a time when I wrote an entire blog while aboard an aircraft (perhaps out of boredom, but also maybe because of a spark of inspiration). There was another instance I drove alone all the way to the nearest “mountains” (it’s just Tagaytay actually), to just sit and think, and then drive home at the end of the day.

How does traveling and being away make you feel and think?

A cultural immersion – My Malaysia experience

My Malaysia trip was an amazing cultural experience for me. It was my first time to visit an Islamic country, not just in terms of religion, but further in terms of culture and architecture.

Malaysia is not too far from the Philippines in terms of geography. Manila to Kuala Lumpur is just a 3.5-hour flight away, and we are still in the same timezone and almost the same latitude. Same weather there too. A most of our ancient roots are from the same ancestors, the Malays and the Chinese. We diverged during the time that our lands were conquered – Malaysia by the British (and Portuguese in some areas), and the Philippines by the Spanish and the Americans.

The Spanish conquest of the Philippine Islands imposed a very Catholic faith and culture in the country, which is very apparent now. This is what I have gotten used to, especially living all my life in the capital. I do understand that there are still a lot of muslim communities in the country, mostly in the southern islands of the country, but I haven’t been exposed much to that. On the other hand, Malaysia has stayed very muslim. It is very apparent in all the grand structures in the city. Even the Petronas towers’ design is very islamic, with an 8-point star floor footprint. They have beautiful grand mosques and palaces. They also have still retained the powers of the Rajas and the Sultans in their States.

It was also Hari Raya time during my visit, and it was very apparent in all the decorations around the city and the events and promotions around. If I understand correctly, the Hari Raya is the celebration equivalent to our Christmas. It was very nice of my friends to introduce and explain a number of Hari Raya traditions to me. There were the raya cookies, the money giving of the adults to the children, and the open houses and visits to families, relatives, and friends. I know there is still so much to know about the Hari Raya and the islamic traditions and malaysian traditions.

The three largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians. You can also see buddhist temples in the city and the grand hindu temple built into the Batu Caves. The Malaysian food is also a wonderful rich mix of tastes from these major ethnic groups. I just can’t start writing about the food, because I’m starting to get hungry just thinking about them. =P”

A happy part of my immersion in Malaysia is finding out about very similar words that Malaysians and Filipinos have. Here’s a short list of what I can remember (M is for malaysian and F is for Filipino):

  • “Nasi” (M) same in Kapampangan (a local filipino dialect) – rice
  • “Jalan” (M) or “Daan” (F) – road or street
  • “Tolak” (M) or “Tulak” (F) – to push
  • “Raja” and “Sultan” (M/F) – king / ruler
  • “Laut” (M) and “Laot” (F) – the sea
  • “Empat” (M) or “Apat” (F) – four
  • “Lima” (M/F) – five
  • “Enam” (M) or “Anim” (F) – six

There are probably a lot more words that I can’t remember right now or I haven’t encountered yet.

It’s so nice to learn and be exposed to the cultures and religions far from one’s own. It opens up one’s mind and broadens perspectives. This is one of the things I really love about traveling. It gives me the opportunity to find out things that I don’t know about, meet people from different cultural backgrounds and learn from them.


I would like to apologize if every I got any of the details above wrong. Please do correct me if needed. I’ve written this article only based on what I could remember from my trip, and if I missed or misunderstood something, or have said anything that may be insulting to anyone, I hope you do forgive me.

It’s a small world (after all)…

The world is indeed getting smaller and smaller. In the digital technology era, internet and social media communications across the globe, and the advent of budget flights, budget accommodations, and couch surfing, we find ourselves more and more a “citizen of the world”.

I have proved this in three aspects during my trip in KL, Malaysia:


New Found Friends (NFFs)

That wonderful opportunity I had during the ASPAC conferences I attended in New Zealand in 2010 and in Singapore this year has imparted me more than just professional and career development, but a discovery of many new friends across the world. I still continue to communicate with some of them via Facebook. I was also lucky to be part of the ASPAC Future Forum this year, and was able to interact more with specific people from the entire conference. During my KL trip, I was able to meet up with my Malaysian friends Melissa and Nensi, who were my group mates for the Future Forum, and Daniel, who I’ve met during both New Zealand and Singapore conferences.

I’ll be glad to meet a few more of my ASPAC friends in other countries, probably some in Australia during my upcoming trip. I’m also hoping to find a lot more new found friends across the globe, even the people I’ve met online through my blog and my other online accounts.

Long Lost Friends (LLFs)

Not really “long lost”, but LLF is just a label we use for really old-time friends we haven’t seen for a while. While in KL, I had the opportunity to meet up with Singapore-based friends Arnold and Wenna (and yes, I’ve met up with them in Singapore last April and in Manila just recently). Isn’t it so interesting to meet up with the same friends in different places around the world? I wonder where I’ll encounter them next. Also, I was able to see Esti, who I honestly haven’t seen or spoken with in a long while. He’s working in Malaysia now. It was nice to see him again.

The “Global” Family

Without really knowing about each others’ plans, my sister and I booked separate international trips happening on the same weekend. I went to Malaysia, and she went to Cambodia with friends. My brother is based in Australia, and my parents were left back home in Manila. We have a very healthy habit of chatting with each other via iMessage when we can, and that was what we were doing during that weekend. Very interesting to have a chat with your family while on different countries.


I’ll probably be planning a lot more trips around in the next few months and years, as far as the finances permit. I would really love to see the world, meet new people, find old friends, and discover and learn many new things. Perhaps in our world now, it’s not so lonely anymore when you go away from your hometown. Well, as long as there is wifi connection wherever I am going, I’d probably be ok. :p

The KL Adventure – Part 2

(a continuation of the last post)

Pavilion MallAfter the tour, I asked to be dropped off at Bukit Bintang. I had late lunch of Asam Laksa at Old Town, and then went for a walk around. As I was resisting all and every urge to go shopping (and my credit card was completely cooperating because it wasn’t working in Malaysia), I decided to leave the Bukit Bintang area and proceed to Central Market.

Kuala LumpurUhm, but then again, Central Market is also a shopping place, but at least it wasn’t a mall. Still resisting the difficult urge to shop, I just bought a few items for my folks back home, and just a single item, a batik sarong, for myself. After Central Market, I walked to the Chinatown nearby. I was thinking of buying a few more items in Chinatown, but nothing got my fancy. Yehey wallet, you’re saved again.

Jalan Petaling

Tired from the tour, the looooooong stair climb at Batu Caves, and all the walk, I headed back to the hotel to rest a while and freshen up. After resting enough, I set off again, but not too far from the hotel. I went walking around the area of the hotel, around Jalan Raja Laut.

LomiThat evening, I decided to have some authentic local food. I saw a number of side-street restaurants just outside the hotel, so I walked to one and ordered myself a bowl of Lohmi. Oh yes, it’s so similar with the Lomi I know from back home, but I had to try. Also, I got Lime juice with salted plum for my drink, which actually tastes like calamansi juice with kiamoy in it. It was strange but yummy. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was good to have had dinner very near the hotel, because after that I headed back and just rested the entire evening.

Woke up on the last day of my KL trip feeling refreshed, although my legs were still a bit painful from the day before. I remembered that it was a Sunday (actually, my parents reminded me the night before), so I went online to find a Catholic Church nearby and attend mass. I showered and dressed up, had breakfast at the hotel, and then took a taxi to the church nearby. After the mass, I went back to the hotel and finished packing, and then checked out. I brought all my stuff with me to KLCC.

Suria KLCCI met up again with Daniel at KLCC. He works at Petrosains, together with Nensi and Melissa, and all of them I met during the ASPAC conference. Daniel and Nensi took me around Petrosains.

After going around Petrosains, Daniel took me to a food place nearby, to be able to try a few more Malaysian food. This time we had Indian-Malaysian food, consisting of biryani rice, curry, deep-fried bitter gourd, and some fried maggi. I really fell in love with that deep-fried bitter gourd, because I have never eaten amplaya that good. He also got teh tarik for my drink, and corrected me and explained that teh tarik is really taken hot, not cold (because I thought I have tried cold teh tarik somewhere in Sg or Manila maybe?).

After lunch, we had a walk around KLCC and KLCC park. There are wonderful views of the Petronas Towers from the park.

KLCC park

With time almost running out, we went back inside Suria KLCC and sat down for some coolers – ais campur and kedondong juice. Yumyum! Melissa came and caught up with us. It was wonderful to see Melissa even just for a short while.

Kedondong juice

After the snack, it was time for me to leave for the airport already. I bid goodbye to my friends at Petrosains, took a taxi to the Sentral Station, and took the train-shuttle connection back to LCCT airport.

Such a short trip, only a little bit over two days, but I had so many new experiences, new places visited, and new food savored. Everyone was telling me that a weekend is not enough to experience all that KL has to offer. I answer them simply, this won’t be my last visit to the city. Now that I have a taste or a teaser of it, I can plan my future trips better.

Many thanks to Daniel for helping me plan my trip and my destinations during this short trip, and also for the warm welcome and the wonderful food! Much appreciated. I’ll be at your service when you decide to visit Manila next time. It was also great to see Nensi and Melissa, and I’m hoping I’ll get to see them both again and maybe longer the next time I visit KL. ๐Ÿ™‚

And because I couldn’t fit all the nice photos in the post, you can just check them out in my Picasa album.