Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘travel’

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (The Night Life)

Our four-day trip is never complete without seeing Hong Kong’s night life. We tried to fit in our itinerary into one whole day, so we had kept ourselves awake from early morning to midnight. I guess HK will never fail to fascinate me even at night because the city is teeming with life and audacity, as modernity and traditional culture blend well together like oil colors on a lovely, black ivory canvas.

Enjoying Food In Public Places

I’ve already touched down a bit about food in my previous blog about Disneyland. A friend living in HK led us to a good hot pot restaurant called JKJ Pot at Tsim Sha Tsui. I’d recommended this place for groups like ours because you’d never leave this place feeling empty as the food is tasty and satisfying.



The hot pot waiting to be filled with meat balls, cow lungs, lettuce…


…as well as beef and eel.


Top the dinner off with a good bottle of Hong Kong beer.

I was amazed that customers can put their bags in bag racks beneath the table and their coats and hats in cabinets in the restaurant without the fear of losing them. I guess living in Manila made me a bit paranoid and suspicious towards people around me, especially in public places like restaurants. I had to understand by that time that I should never hold on to any apprehension while enjoying a sumptuous dinner in HK.

Temple Street Market

Filipinos love having a bargain and I’m sure this is one of those places they’d love to visit before going home. You can find all sorts of merchandise here like t-shirts and bags, as well as traditional artifacts like ramen bowls and tiny Buddha statues. Souvenir prices are really low but make sure to scout the long road in order to find a better deal.

The Peak

We decided to visit The Peak the following night. Again, the queue for those buying tickets for the tram was too long but locals and tourists alike were willing to wait.

I love how the tram station is littered with memorabilia and historical artifacts. These made the ride more interesting. The best part here is seeing the romantic night view of the city while the tram chugs along the old rails.

Stalls with various merchandise and antiques were also littered around the mall beside the tram station.
Small Madame Tassauds exhibits were also featured in the mall going to The Peak. At least, I had the chance to encounter Bruce Lee for once in my life.

I would have loved to see The Peak but tickets going there were sold at $50. My friends were not ready to spend much on that, so looks like I’d really have to go back to HK next year.

I can’t believe that our HK tour was short…too short to enjoy the whole country. Still, our last day would also be very memorable and awesome. It did not matter if we got back to our guest house late at night again. All we wanted was to make sure we’d have a grand time in our final day in Hong Kong.


Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (Day 3)

Let kids be kids but don’t let adults be adults. Our Hong Kong experience would never be complete without unleashing the kid in us. But that cheeky side does not stay in Disneyland forever because it continued to live on when we visited Ocean Park.


From left: Rachel, Em, Lans, and yours truly.

We opted to visit Ocean Park despite having its counterpart in Manila. I heard it is a recommended tourist site and I already had the impression it is more hi-tech and impressive than Manila’s Ocean Adventure. By the size of the place itself, I had the impression Ocean Park is more than what I had expected.

The Marine World At the Summit

Filipinos like our OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) friend, Em, would suggest to start at the far end section of the theme park, The Marine World. One could get there by express train or by cable park, whicb was a good choice because it gives a view of the Hong Kong scenery.

We started the tour by visiting aquariums like the Sea Jelly Spectacular and Shark Mystique. What I like most here were the state-of-the-art interactive modules that give interesting trivia about these sea creatures.

Inside the Sea Jelly Spectacular.

At the Shark Mystique.

The dolphin and sea lion show is held at The Marine World and the first one starts at 12nn. Encountering these animals would require another fee so we’re just happy to see them flip and wave at us.


What surprised me was that Ocean Park has loads of thrill rides…and mind you, some of them are not for scardy cats. Of course, I had dared myself to take The Abyss. But I ended up as the only passenger screaming after the ride was seemingly dropped from the air.

Darn, my friends left me here alone…

We would have tried the other rides like the roller coaster and the ferris wheel but they were closed for scheduled maintenance when we got there. I admire the staff for taking extra precaution by doing so. Too bad, we were not able to return to those rides when they had opened because we wanted to maximize our whole-day visit by not wasting our time through waiting.

The Ocean Park Tower was the most relaxing ride we tried. All we did was just sigh (while taking pictures) because it gave us a breathtaking, 360-degree view of Hong Kong and of the whole Ocean Park.

Part of the view was the top of the Thrill Mountain, which I’d talk about if you bear with me. 

The Thrill Mountain

The most memorable ride for me would be the Hair Raiser. If you could see the twisting, yellow line from the picture above, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s almost located at the edge of the mountain but don’t worry about it because it is safe…except that it will give some of you goosebumps.

Since no loose items like bags or cameras were allowed, just imagine the screams were made when our carriage began to twist, turn and go upside down in less than a minute.

The Animals

My favorite part of the tour. Since we don’t get to see sea lions, pandas and koalas everyday, we did not miss the chance seeing them. Guess what’s the story behind these two sea lions at Marine World.

Insert sea lion story caption. 😃


A real, live walrus at Polar Adventure!

If only I can dive with the seals.

Most of the furry animals are located at the lower part of the theme park like the Amazing Asian Animals and Aqua City. I never ever get to see a real panda, especially a red panda, in any zoo in the Philippines! Some of my friends said we were lucky to see them both hanging around. Although the red panda quickly scuttled into the bushes when people started to flock in. Who would have thought I’d get to see Master Shifu and Po entertaining guests at their lovely abode?

Kung Fu Panda fans would immedietely recognize Master Shifu.

At last, I have seen the Legend of Awesomeness.

Guests entering these places, including the Adventures in Australia, are required to be quiet and are banned from using any cameras with flash. Too bad, koalas are not meant for hugging here (looks like I need to go to Queensland to hug one). Signs around the place warn koalas are nocturnal animals sensitive to light and sound. We don’t want to stress out our sleepy, cuddly mate so we just said a quiet hello as we passed by.

Animal mascots are also everywhere. We don’t want to leave without taking a picture with them, of course.

I find Ocean Park bigger than Disneyland. Looks like one day is not enough to visit all attractions there. Maybe I have to return to Hong Kong next year to tour the whole place and visit the ones we have missed. There’s more in our itinerary but we only have one day left to check everything in our bucket list.

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (Day 2)

My friends and I wanted to snuggle in our beds until late in the morning as we were greeted by a cold start. Temperature was around 18 to 19 degrees in Hong Kong and it made me think I was living in a dream. But we have to get out of our beds early because we only have the whole day to spend in HK Disneyland.

Transportation going there is very accessible. Taking the train is the easiest way. I was completely impressed with how the whole MTR system is designed, as well as with the efficiency of its signs. These are tourist-friendly and they are easy to read because they are written in both Chinese and English.

Aside from that, Disneyland has its own train line! From the Sunny Bay station on Tung Chung line, the train would carry excited children and children-at-heart to the happiest place on earth! With the Mickey-inspired windows and handrails, we were even more thrilled to be there.

The happy kids: me, Rachel, and Lans. 😀

Even though it was a weekday (not just any weekend because it was a Monday), the queue at the entrance was very long. Actually, almost all rides at Disneyland have long queues. Wearing comfty footwear is the best advice I could give because I had to struggle in the end due to my chic boots.

Who says I was suffering at the hands…er, soles of my boots?

Some friends who had been to Disneyland have adviced us to begin at the end of the theme park. That would be at Toy Story Land where Woody was greeting us in both Chinese and English…

…tried to match up with Jessie and Buzz Lightyear…

…and screamed at rides that were seemingly mild.

Next was the roller coaster ride at the Grizzly Gulch.

We took at peek at Tarzan’s tree house.

But my favorite of all was the Mystic Manor (I don’t have a picture of the ride so you better see it for yourselves).

After all the thrill rides, we relaxed at It’s A Small World. I love it because it is a celebration of all nations where lovely toy children were singing it’s a small world in different languages.

The castle outside.

And I was touched that they have featured the Philippines.

Tomorrowland is also cool, especially Stark’s Expo and Star Wars.

Expect food to be expensive at Disneyland (and for the whiff of caramel popcorn to tease your noses everywhere). Nothing there would be lower than HK$35. Still, I tried the Minnie Mouse ice cream because I have to feel the Disney vibe.

And yes, I just ended up having a picture of Mickey ears that cost more than HK$100.

Our ultimate goal was to catch the Mouse…the Mice rather. Having a picture of Mickey and the gang would be a stroke of luck because there’s always a limit (I could only see Goofy and Pluto from afar huhu). But finally, finally! We were lucky to get into the queue just to get a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse just before we headed home!

The dream ends here. Too bad, there were no fireworks because some parts of Disneyland were under renovation. It does not matter because I have been to the happiest place on earth at last.

We capped off the night by meeting another friend living in Hong Kong, who then treated us with a good steamy hot pot at JKJ Pot at Tsim Tsia Shui.

Cheers for another day of adventure. I thought the dream was over but there’s more to come. 🙂

​Breathing Adventure: Crashing Into the Waves at Dingalan, Aurora

Having a dose of vitamin sea is never too late when taken on a fair but moody October day. It can be maddening as it can become a concoction for excitement and anxiety. You will never know when the weather might throw some tantrums at you. But it did not matter. All I wanted was to see the clear, blue waters and feel the summer jive of Dingalan, Aurora.

Known as the Batanes of the East, Dingalan is a paradise of tropical beaches, sleeping caves and emerald green landscapes. It’s your preferred breakaway from the toxic city life. Travelling there from Manila would be four hours at most. It is recommended you take along a big van and a battalion of friends to get there.

Travel cost was around P1300. That includes van, boat transfers, lunch, and tour guide. It would be best if you leave at around 1 or 2 am, especially if you’re planning a day tour for this one.

From Dingalan Feeder Port, we were transferred to Dingalan island. We left our bags there before heading off to the Lamao Cave.

On the boat with our tour guide, Kuya Bong Reyes (in grey shirt)

While the others were freaking, I could not help but raise my arms in anticipation at the humongous waves cradling our boat. All I could hear in my head was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries while we were flowing with the giant tide. The cave was not too far but even so, we had to swim at the mouth of the cave because the boat couldn’t dock near it.

These rocks look pretty but they are actually painful when stepped on…ouch!

Rock climbing (and picture taking) is a must at the Lamao Rock Formation. Just take caution because some parts of the rocks are edgy and sharp.

We decided to leave the island when wild winds were already blowing. Five of us were on the boat when the weather had thrown a nasty fit. She made the boat spin a bit wildly until one of its outriggers was broken when it crashed unto the rocks.

I was calm all along because I trusted in God’s saving grace. The other girls wanted to jump off in panic but I waited for the right timing to jump off the boat. Leaping at the wrong time could lead to something even more fatal. Fortunately, another boat had rescued us back to the island. All that time, I could not help but think of His promise that He’s keeping us sheltered under His wings.



The nasty wound I got from the rocks…I was literally bleeding when we were already on the boat…ouch!

We were all a bit shaken but I could not help but be amused by the thought, “This is more thrilling than Survivor.” A little food can ease the panic off. Maybe a boodle fight of the best seafood and the freshest fruits can do the trick.

But nothing could be worse than a shipwreck than wrong expectations. I was too foolish to expect this was all sand and sea (because I overlooked some details of the itinerary). The highlight of this tour was the Mountain View Deck and it could only be seen if you take a little trek going there.

It would have been an easy thirty-minute trek if it were not for the mud caused by that morning’s rain. As expected, I was already grumpy, mostly when I had to take my slippers off (wrong footwear, folks. Just. Wrong.) Still, just like every other climax, that view of the Pacific can take all despair and breath away.


And not to mention the lighthouse on the other peak.


Muddy and tired, we had the tour capped at around 4 pm. If I could take home something, that would be some nasty wounds, sand on your flip-flops, and a good story to share.

I will never expect my adventures to be the same again. They’re not textbooks outlined with the same pattern because each has a different impact in our lives. I was amazed I was calm in the midst of danger and I kept myself levelheaded during a crisis. An adventure would never be an adventure without some thrill in it. We need that to break our mundane life. We need a little bit of test to improve our resilience in life.

But next time, I hope my next trip would be a bit more peaceful.

My regards to Khaye Satur for organizing this trip, as well as to our tour guide Kuya Bong Reyes for being such a caring guide for such a mountain slowpoke like me. Also, our trip could not be even spicier without the Hugot Van Manila of Kuya Gherz.



A glimpse of that awesome hugot van…you will find more lovestruck hugot when you jump into the ride. 🙂

Watch out for their next trip through Khaye’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/khayesatours/) and Gherz’s page (https://www.facebook.com/gherz.brizo).

Breathing Adventure: Travelling Back In Time At Las Casas (Bataan, Philippines)

I think I have fallen in love. No, not with some Prince Charming or some knight in shining armor. I have found basking myself in the glory of history. It’s a place where the past is immortalized through houses of grandeur, their stories resonating in my pure, Filipina soul. By the time I have stepped back into reality, I was never the same again. I think I have just left a piece of my heart in Las Casas.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a place owned by Jerry Acuzar, one of the most succesful and richest men in the province. It was built in 2010 but it is continually being developed until today. 

To get there, one has to take a three to four-hour bus ride from the Genesis bus station in Cubao going to Balanga (that would be Php200) and about an hour’s jeepney ride from Balanga to Bagac (Php50). Then, take a Php50 tricycle ride to the very site. I recommend you to leave at around 7 am even if the check-in time is at 2 pm. We were very lucky because our jeepney driver had agreed to take us straight to the resort while charging us only Php80 per person.

Stepping through the gates of Las Casas is like stepping back in time. It embodies everything Filipino, right from the building structures, the camiso de chino and the baro’t saya the staff are wearing to the true blue Pinoy values they are exemplefying. Their friendliness and hospitality are very welcoming for us. I even felt a little embarrassed when they have asked us to carry our bags to our room.

I couldn’t contain my excitement because everything is overwhelmingly IG-worthy. By the time we have entered our overnight abode, I screamed. With that, I was ready with my OOTD. I have to make sure I’d jive well with the place.

A jeep would carry us from the reception, to our quarters and to the little village where las casas (yes, the place literally means “the houses” in Spanish) stand. All houses, which were restored or remodeled, have story to tell. Some of them are linked to our national heroes, some had horror stories but others will just simply bring childhood memories of your old grandma’s house where the smell of burning leaves waft in the morning air. I assure you one day is not enough for all of these tours and activities.

One of the tour guides demonstrating some of the most curious things that could be found in an old house.

A room full of curiosities

Many statues like these playing children are placed in the village

Murals that replicate the works of great Filipino artists in one of the houses.

It would be good if you spend an overnight stay on the weekend because they have cultural shows on Saturdays and special activities on Sundays. One of them was the carabao race, which we have missed unfortunately. Still, we were able to watch a play at the end of the tour, which is about the value of the Filipino.

The carabao parade! We should have followed them to see them race. 🙂

Nighttime at Las Casas is very romantic. I don’t mind not having a date because the sound of the singing violin from afar is enough to melt my heart. If you’re wondering where that sound came from, that was from the open Italian restaurant in the village.

I warn you the food in this place is quite pricey but I can also assure you it won’t disappoint you. You just have to choose whether you like Filipino or Italian cuisine. We have chosen Filipino food because it is good for sharing (one viand costs around Php300-Php500 but a cup of rice is Php50). It is very fulfilling because it is tasty and it is really heavy in the stomach.

Ginataang langka


Breakfast is just as good as dinner. Oh, the breakfast buffet is part of our overnight package so we can have as much bread and coffee as we want. I would say again the food is satisfying and superb. It’s enough to keep us going through the rest of the day.

That’s daing na bangus with eggs and fried rice, paired with lomi, fruits and coffee, along woth bread and jam. Who says we’ll be hungry the whole day?

The sea was not swimmable because the waves were dangerously strong. Don’t worry, there’s a small pool near the beach where you can waddle for a morning swim. 

Even after check-out, we can still tour the place in the afternoon. We did not miss the kalesa ride (about Php75 per person) but we were not able to take the balsa ride (which should have been at Php250) because it was beginning to drizzle. We’d rather horse around the rest of the day.

Meet Makisig, the strongest horse in town. I couldn’t imagine him carrying six ladies around town. 🙂

As always, we took a visit at the souvenir shop. I would have loved to take a picture while wearing a traditional Filipino dress at their Photography studio but the minimum price is Php800 to Php900! Nah, forget it. It’s not my pre-nup yet. 

Surprisingly, we only remembered to take a bite at around 3 pm (I told you the breakfast is superb!). Let me remind you that puto (rice cakes) at their snack bar costs at around Php110 for every five, small pieces. Kikiam (a type of Filipino dumpling) costs at around Php90! Oh well, we’d be willing to try it for the sake of experiencing them.

We ended the tour (and the picture taking) past 5 pm. If you don’t plan to bring a car at Las Casas, advise you not to leave the place around that time because there would be no more jeepney going to Balanga. The last jeepney trip would be around 4 or 5pm. The tricycles did take us to Balanga but it’s a bit expensive. 

The gateway to the beach.

We all had our hangovers when we had left the place. If only we could stay longer. The place and the experience Las Casas offers are very satisfying. I’d recommend you to take a room for six if you’re going with a large group because that only costs Php10,800 or Php1800 per person during the weekdays (rates are more expensive on weekends). It would be great to visit the place with your best travel buddies.

From the left Tina, myself, Lans, Ross and Ritz…all aboard to new adventures.

What I love most of all in Las Casas is its tag, “Pride in the past, hope for the future”. Such houses are rarely found in the cities. It is sad many modern Filipinos do not have a sense of history. I admire Mr. Acuzar for keeping the Filipino spirit alive by rebuilding these houses. I hope it is not only the experience the visitors would bring home. I hope everyone who visits Las Casas would also carry the vision Mr. Acuzar has in preserving the Filipino heritage.

Breathing Adventure: The 8D 1D Challenge At Cavite, Batangas and Tagaytay

Visiting eight destinations in one day may sound tiring but it’s worth the try. This travel tour on Facebook gave us the chance to take a day tour around three places in South Luzon: Batangas, Cavite, and Tagaytay.

1. Marian Orchard

This sanctuary in Batangas was our first stop. This place is perfect for peace seekers, as well as for those who are camera-obsessed. It would be good to stay here to medidate but that would be impossible if only 40 minutes were given to roam around.

2. Taal Heritage Town and Taal Church

These two are joined together as the 2nd and 3rd destinations in our bucket list. Like this picture below, many of the old Spanish houses in the town are well preserved. I would have loved to visit each one just to see what’s inside.

The church itself is the main site to visit in this area. But we were not able to come any nearer because we only had an hour…

…to enjoy a bowl of Batangas’ hot, steamy, special lomi. Lunch time, folks!

3. Villa Jovita

Participants in this trip were given the chance to take a dip and relax in this resort in Batangas. However, most of us were not in the mood to wade into the water, although we were given two hours to enjoy the moment.

I guess we love to capture every moment in our lenses instead.

The river beside the pool.

4. Fantasy World

Visiting this place is a wish come true for me. Who wouldn’t be curious to know what’s inside this mini-theme park? When we came in, we were stunned to see…

…fairies and wizards unleashing their power…

…monks of great wisdom gathering for a revolution…

…and, my, my! Be a queen for a day!

What’s best in this place is to be in your best OOTD with your friends.

Sadly, the theme park rides were all closed because of the rain and strong winds.

5. Gingerbread House

If ever Hansel and Gretel would visit Cavite, I’m sure they would poke their noses in this place. Fortunately, there’s no wicked witch to fatten them up. Visiting here is like having an early Christmas because everything here reminded us of sweet, childhood days.

The rain was a spoiler because it had caused a power outage around the place, making it quite a bit dreary. Still, it did not stop me from looking around the bakeshop that was peppered with everything cheery like this giant gingerbread man.

A Christmas dining table and other Christmas decors.

Make your wish upon this wishing well. The wish below is not mine, by the way.

If there’s something I would wish for, I would wish for loads and loads of money to buy everything here.

Instead, I had found out it’s free to fit in this gingerbread house.

They also have a souvenir shop (especially for the ref magnet hunters like me).

6. Diner’s Bulalo House

Any trip would not be complete without dinner at Tagaytay and any dinner in Tagaytay would not be complete without bulalo. It’s like a fitting salvo to the cold, drizzle that was pouring at that hour.

7. Sky Ranch

The last destination was this huge theme park. I would have been excited if it were not for the rain. Besides, it was already quite late to get in. At least, we had the chance to see it…finally.

Visiting eight places in a day is surprisingly possible. I just felt some of the visits were too short because we were given very limited time. I believe we could have had more time to roam around some of the places if the tour group was not late because of the early morning run. Still, I appreciate our tour guides because they were very accomodating and friendly. For a P1000 budget, the experience was not bad at all, especially when you’re with people you enjoy road tripping with.

Breathing Adventure: Touching the Heavenly Abode At Mt. Ulap

There’s no other place like Benguet. Sitting beside Baguio, many have fallen in love with this place because of its fresh air, scenic views, and alpine-covered slopes that resemble a bit of Europe’s fairy-tale forests. Besides that, Benguet boasts of giant mountains that defy the deities by touching the heavens. Among these is Mt. Ulap, which lives up to its name because it welcomes its visitors into the cradle of the heavenlies. 

Is it a deer? Nope. It’s a cow hiding as a deer. How’s that for an enchanted forest? 🙂

We left Cubao at 10pm to ensure we’d arrive at Benguet by 4 or 5am. First-timers are estimated to take an 8 to 10-hour trek on the mountain. 

The glorious sunrise was a wonderful opening to this long hike. Ever since my old phone has been damaged due to this poor writer’s absent-mindedness at the beach, I never imagined I would be able to catch again a momentous moment that actually happens everyday.

The hike was not as tiring as I first expected. It was one of the most refreshing hikes I had since I had my first taste of wonder at Mt. Pulag in 2015. 

The wind was cool enough to lessen the sting of the rising sun. I was surprised I did not consume a liter of water as I only brought a small canister with me. I decided not to tire myself with a backpack. I wanted to have the liberty of freeing my back from such heavy load. Besides, I enjoyed having my own stick, which I had bought at the registration area. I can be a good memorabilia after the hike.

There are three peaks at Mt. Ulap. The first peak already has amazing views itself.

Stone markers that tourists would like to build as proof they were once here.

Along the way, I took a moment to listen to the bird that was singing its praises to the Creator, who had artfully sculpted the beauty that I saw all around.

The Gungal Rock, which was the second peak, has been the most challenging one. One has to be loaded with guts to cross the sloping rocks to pose for a rocking profile pic.

Most breathtaking of them all is the last and highest peak.

Mt. Ulap would never be called as it is without the clouds that had slyly curtailed our wide-eyed, sun-kissed faces. The evergreen slopes beyond was playfully peeking behind those rising white pillars while we pranced and jumped around to get that perfect, perfect shot!

After going down a short but very steep portion of the mountain, we were finally relieved when we dropped by Mt. Ulap’s 7-Eleven. Oh, yes! More ref magnets to collect!

The descent at Mt. Ulap has been developed by installing makeshift wooden stairs. Lans, my friend who organized this trip, told me there were no manmade steps when they first trekked here in 2016. Mt. Ulap has just been officially opened in 2015 so it only took only awhile to improve the more dangerous path.

What I’ve appreciated most in this trip was the camaraderie that has been developed among the group. Most of us were unknown to one another at the start but most of us have became clingy to one another at the end of the trek. That’s why hiking is more enjoyable than beach. The challenges we face in the mountains are actually refining us to become stronger individuals and to make stronger bonds of friendship. 

Tag Cloud