Friday, April 21, 2017

Starry Starry Night at Kingfisher Park

A 45-minute tricycle ride (Php 800 for 5 pax, roundtrip, arranged through Kingfisher Park) from Coron Town and we found ourselves at the gate of Kingfisher Park, where Ale (short for Alejandro), the park ranger, welcomed us.

The small hut at the gate was lit by a single lightbulb and all the rest of the park was lit by moonlight. Even in the dark, we immediately knew we'd like this place. Or maybe it's our age and wanting to get away from crowds (we were the only guests at Kingfisher Park that night).

Blurry, blurry, starry, starry night. (Sorry, I had no tripod!)

Before starting the Starry Starry Night Tour (Php 300 per pax), the name of their one-hour firefly watching kayak tour, Ale took us to the boardwalk where we happily conversed in Visayan, telling us about himself and about the park, looking at constellations and trying out his newly installed constellation app. It was a good 15 minutes of free flowing conversation in our native tongues and staring at the moonlit surroundings before we had to go back to the shore to don lifevests, meet our guides, and start the tour.

Since none of us were experienced kayakers, we requested to have a guide per kayak. We were on three tandem kayaks and one three-seater kayak. And off we went gliding on the water with our guides doing all the paddling. Oh, what lazy bums we were! (If you'd like to paddle on your own, that is most welcome!)

Into the night we go

The guides shared bits and pieces about fireflies, taking us to trees where there were twinkling little fireflies. When my guide found out we were all Bisaya and when we all found out our guides (except for one) were Bisaya, that's when the serenity of the park was shattered. It was a big relief to speak in our own dialect! That's how the guides must have felt too for from then on they were on a roll with their jokes.

Don't know how to take photos of fireflies but, honest, there are fireflies in those trees!

Yes, we saw fireflies. And planktons too! It was an enjoyable night and we wish to go back to Kingfisher Park to try their daylight activities (hiking on Lunes Santo, kayaking through the mangroves, bird watching, and trekking to Kaluluwang Falls), camp, and enjoy the nature, peace and quiet, and blanket of stars that surround it.

Kingfisher Park
Kingfisher Park Road, Malbato, Coron, Palawan
Alejandro (Ale) 0921 716 2391 / 0916 489 8040
facebook page

To book (advance booking is required) any of the activities in Kingfisher Park, contact them at the numbers posted above. Transportation to and from the park can also be arranged through them.

Coron 2017
Coron Accommodation: Centro Coron
Starry Starry Night at Kingfisher Park (you're here!)
(more soon)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Coron Accommodation: Centro Coron

Six years, red paint, some Chinese characters, and Centro Coron doesn't look anything like the photo I saw in their facebook page. Nevertheless, I was glad to find that it was indeed in the center of the town of Coron, just walking distance to Mt Tapyas, the market, and the port.

Centro Coron

We booked their room for 5 persons for Php 3000 a night, with free breakfast and airport transfers. (Full payment through BPI deposit is required to confirm the booking.) They let us check in when we arrived a little after 10AM and the room was already prepared and cool (AC was already on).

Centro Coron's rooms are simple and clean. Towels, toilet paper, and hangers were readily available. The room for 5 persons did not feel cramped. The room also had an electric fan (though we never used it because the airconditioning unit did its job well) and flat screen TV. Centro Coron also has WiFi.

 Room for 5 pax

Breakfast is served from 6AM to 10AM, but we found that it is best to place your orders early as it takes their undermanned restaurant (I only saw 2 waitstaff and 1 cook) quite a long time to prepare the food. For the free breakfast you can choose from any of the below-Php100-priced breakfast items (only the pancakes come with free coffee). I recommend their daingsilog.

Breakfast menu. Click to enlarge.

I'd like to commend Angelica, Centro Coron's receptionist, for being very helpful when we needed to go to the airport earlier than scheduled. When most vans had already left and we couldn't wait for our schedule, she found us a ride. Thank you very much Angelica!

Centro Coron Bed and Breakfast
RV Rogers Building, Brgy 4, Poblacion, Coron, Palawan
Khimmar dela Torre 0927 745 4625

Coron 2017
Coron Accommodation: Centro Coron (you're here!)
Starry Starry Night at Kingfisher Park
(more soon)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #50

On forgiving and forgetting
Forgive and forget.
But if there's nothing to forgive, don't forget.

Forgive. If your itinerary goes all awry, forgive yourself or whoever or whatever caused it. Go to Plan B. If there's no Plan B, smile, wing it, and just make the most of the situation.

Forget. Or rather, when you travel DO NOT FORGET to...
  • bring your underwear. My little piggy friend forgot to bring his undies when he traveled to Myanmar for a week! Haha! Or maybe he did that on purpose. Must have been very airy down there in the scorching, dusty lands of Bagan!
  • keep your passport with you at all times, else you undergo horrifying minutes that could feel like hours like Brennan of The Weekend Dispatch experienced when he traveled in India.
  • bring your memory card and/or extras (if you're using a camera). When we were in Sabtang Island (Batanes), a fellow tourist approached us begging to borrow an extra memory card because he had forgotten to bring his!
  • turn off your MP3 player (or whatever gadget) after using. Or if you do forget and it drains the battery, I hope you did not forget to bring your charger.
  • have an open mind. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy your trip!

For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Cincuenta y nueve

Lost your glass slipper?
You might find it in this shop.
Spotted in Tagbilaran, Bohol.

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pamilacan Island

Pamilacan Island, a small island just 12.5 kilometers across the sea from Baclayon in Bohol, has been an elusive destination, not because it vanishes into thin air, but because I could never recruit enough number of friends to join me on a trip. To get there, one has to charter a pumpboat which is too expensive if traveling alone (unless it's a Wednesday when the residents of Pamilacan go to the mainland for market day, then one could try his luck in getting a ride with them when they go back home to Pamilacan Island).

I finally sailed to Pamilacan Island on a windy December with six recruits: my officemates. We had hired a boat through Shirley's Cottage where we will be staying for the night.

0948 129 0167 / 0908 813 8062

For Php 900 per person for accommodation and three meals, it was a good deal.

The room was clean and simple and had the necessities: a bed, an electric fan (though electricity is from 5PM until midnight only), sockets (to plug in your gadgets...when there was electricity), and a toilet and bathroom (though you have to get water from their tank out back). Shirley had one cottage with two rooms; each room could accommodate two comfortably. Since we were seven in the group, she offered tents that we could use at no extra charge, but by the end of the day, we were too lazy to set it up and just squeezed in 4 or 3 in a room (an extra mattress was provided in each room so that each room could sleep up to four).

The right–hand side room

Dining area

The food was delicious and plentiful. There was fresh fish, fresh fruits, fresh coconut juice! The meals were always all ready even when we weren't. They even prepared snacks (which I didn't expect)!

The family who runs this place is very nice, friendly, and accommodating. They have two boats that they use for the boat transfers and boating trips for their guests: Php 1500 for the small boat (up to 8 pax) for transfers to and from the mainland; Php 2500 for the bigger boat. For boating (dolphin watching and snorkeling), since we availed of transfers, she only asked us to add Php100 per person. This doesn't include snorkel and mask though, so you either have to bring your own or rent one (they will know where to rent one in the island).

We started early for dolphin watching (but I didn't get to take any good photos or videos) then came back to the cottage for breakfast before heading out again to go snorkeling at the coral garden and marine sanctuary.

Aside from boating, snorkeling, and swimming, our short overnight stay was spent enjoying the breeze, eating, sleeping, talking, and checking out and taking note of the other accommodations. Aside from Shirley's Cottage, these are the five other options:

Nita's Nipa Huts
0921 320 6497 / 0930 898 6063 / 0919 408 9323

0918 258 4775 / 0929 970 4175

Junior and Nemesia's Cottages
0919 419 4684 / 0919 717 8030 / 0915 716 5325

0946 249 1748 / 0919 730 6108

0927 982 1350
I did not get to take a photo of the cottages in Liwayway sa Bohol but it looked to be the newest and most expensive of the half dozen choices in the island.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Easy Hike for Clouds: Puntaas in Danao, Bohol

On a December Friday, my friends and I boarded the 12 midnight slow ferry to Tubigon and arrived three hours later in the cold, rainy, windy Tubigon Port, all dreary eyed, muddle headed, and sluggish. We waited an hour or so for the rain to slow to a trickle before disembarking to search for the van we had hired to take us to Puntaas in Brgy. Concepcion in Danao.

We found the van and, inside, a snoozing driver. Much as we didn't want to disturb his sleep, we had to because we didn't want to miss the clouds at Puntaas which slowly dissipates as the sun rises. The driver himself didn't know the exact location, only that it was in Brgy. Concepcion. After some stops to ask for directions, we finally reached our destination marked by rows of cars parked on the side of the road. We each paid an entrance fee of Php 25 before following the path and the people making their way to the top to witness the clouds.

It was an easy 15-minute hike up a moderate slope. On the mountain, enterprising locals have set up shop to sell drinks and snacks (and maybe even breakfast!). There were also campers already enjoying the soft morning sun and the view.

That morning there was no "sea" of clouds, just a "river" as my disappointed friends called it.  (In hindsight, the "sea" might have already dissipated; we had arrived around 6AM.) Nonetheless, to me it was still a beautiful sight to see. Not just because of the clouds, but because of the 360-degree view of nature; of paddies down the mountain; and of the clouds that have gathered low among a clump of trees and was slowly rising and fading.

A "river" of clouds as my friends called it

 Terraced rice paddies

In the morning light

Rising and fading

Before the sun could rise any higher and scorch us entirely, and when there was just wisps of cloud left, we headed back down the mountain and to the van to our tired and sleepy driver.

  • Arrive as early as 430AM, bring a flashlight or headlamp.
  • Although it's a short hike, wear good hiking shoes or sandals, ones you are willing to get dirty and muddy. The trail can get muddy if it rains.
  • The "sea" of clouds isn't guaranteed to happen every day.
  • If you're coming from Cebu, the nearest port to Danao (in Bohol) would be Tubigon. Starcraft, the fastcraft from Cebu to Tubigon, runs 8 times daily from 545AM to 530PM and takes an hour. Fare is Php 200 / 220 / 280. The slower option is the ferry, Lite Ferries, which takes 2.5 to 3 hours. It runs 4 times daily: 7AM, 12NN, 7PM, and 12MN. Fare is Php 200.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #49

On flight delays

Sometimes airline personnel will not tell you the truth right away or will wait to make an announcement at the last possible minute in the hopes of delaying the wrath of passengers. The online flight status is more updated.

Note: The above may or may not be applicable to other airlines.

If you're like me, always on a budget, thus always stuck on a budget airline flight, these links to flight status updates may come in handy:
Cebu Pacific

For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Itinerary and Budget: Tokyo to Hiroshima

Japan has always been on top of my to-visit list, but my wallet, convinced that it is a very expensive country, kept pushing it to the bottom. Then my brain slapped my wallet hard on its leatherette face and said "If not now, when? This mustache is not getting any younger." I bought a ticket with nary a travel companion in sight.

It was months after buying a plane ticket did I find some travel companions. When they themselves finally found and bought not so expensive tickets, we came up with a 10-day itinerary.

Where we spent our 10 days

Arrive in Narita, blaze from Tokyo to Hiroshima, spending just a day or two in each of the six prefectures our ten days would allow, then wave またね "mata ne" from the plane in Kansai. We and our wallets can do this!  頑張って! Ganbatte!

This trip happened in 2015 when the exchange rate was 0.38 PHP per 1 JPY.
At the current exchange rate of 0.45, the total in Philippine peso would be 45,325.

I've always thought I'd need about Php 10,000 per day in Japan. As you can see from the table of expenses above, I was wrong. And I'm so glad I was wrong. Yes, it is still expensive for a white collar worker like me. And yes, this is the most expensive trip I have ever been on. But not an impossible trip, see?

Plane Ticket. Regular priced roundtrip plane tickets between the Philippines and Japan can go from Php 10,000 to Php 25,000 depending on the destination and on the airline. Like all of my posts about expenses, I did not include the cost of the plane tickets because I usually buy them six to twelve months in advance, during airline promotions. Since Filipinos need a visa to enter Japan, it is recommend to obtain a visa first before buying a ticket. I risked it though knowing full well that if I wasn't granted a visa, my tickets would not be refunded.

Visa. Philippine passport holders should apply for a visa not more than three months before their intended date of travel. Visa applications can only be processed through accredited travel agencies. Applying for a single entry visa would cost Php 1,300. In addition to the visa fee, expect to shell out some cash to obtain these requirements: photo, bank certificate, birth certificate, marriage certificate.

Accommodation. I had set a budget of Php 13,500 per person for 9 nights for accommodation (average of Php 1,500 a night) and the one we had assigned to take care of booking accommodations did a very good job of keeping within budget. We stayed in Airbnb apartments, a hostel, and even a minshuku (a family operated bed and breakfast)! There are many properties on Airbnb, you just have to be meticulous as the initial price shown is the cost per night only; there will be additional fees (cleaning fee and service fee). A dorm bed in a hostel would cost 2,500 JPY and above; most hostels in Japan do not offer free breakfast. The most expensive accommodation for this trip was the minshuku in Ainokura Village, which set us back 8,800 JPY (Php 3,350) each for a night, but this also included awesome home cooked breakfast and dinner and a very memorable stay at a farmhouse.

Food. You can save on food if you are willing to eat onigiri (rice balls) for your every meal. We decided not to be such tightwads and ate at a variety of places. Sometimes we'd buy boxed meals from the convenience store, sometimes from shops at the stations, sometimes we'd eat in fastfood donburi or soba or curry shops, sometimes in restaurants (like Nishiazabu Gogyo in Roppongi, their black ramen was so good!). Our meals would range from 400 JPY to 1,000 JPY, spending an average of 2,300 JPY per day.

Transportation. Fares in Japan are really high (minimum fare for the subway is 150 JPY) and taking the shinkansen (bullet train) would cost a chunk. It would be expensive to get lost in Japan. It is best to research and plot your itinerary beforehand then see which passes would be beneficial for your trip. In Kyoto, we forgot to buy a 1-day subway pass (600 JPY); with the pass we could have saved 130 JPY. The 7-day JR pass (29,110 JPY) ate almost a third of my budget, but with our itinerary, we also made the most out of it (we used the JR Pass for a total of 55,530 JPY on regular fares, taking the shinkansen seven times, and local lines and limited express trains several times).

Admission Fees. Most of the temples, castles, and gardens will charge an admission fee from 200 JPY to 1,500 JPY. Some would also have audio guides available for rent. Some would also offer combo tickets. Do research beforehand.

Others. For this trip, we did not rent a pocket WiFi. Our Airbnb accommodations in Tokyo and in Osaka provided one, so we were connected in those cities. We survived going around Kyoto without one. What we did spend on were lockers to lessen our burden: we were staying just one night in Ainokura Village and did not need to take all our belongings with us; in Osaka, we left our bags in a locker because the check in time wasn't until late in the afternoon; on our last day, from check out time until flight time, we did not want to drag our bags around Osaka. Lockers can be found in every station, but not all stations will have the large lockers (700 JPY per day for a large locker; 500 JPY for a medium locker; 300 JPY for a small locker. The locker fee is per calendar day, not per 24-hour period).

In the end, I was tired (we were always on the go, moving from one place to another), but I was absolutely glad I did it. Even before the plane could take off for home, my brain was already plotting a return (with my starving wallet shivering at the thought).

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima (you're here!)
(more soon)

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Roam Around Japan with a Swagger

With a swagger, a portable WiFi in my pocket, and these apps, I roamed around the Kansai Region of Japan (my 2016 solo trip) like I owned the least that's how I imagined myself. The point is, with the help of these apps, I didn't look like a lost puppy in the streets of Japan. Or so I hope.

I didn't sleep in streets or alleys or subway stations in Japan like a homeless person thanks to I love this website/app because:
  • it is easy to use – I just enter the location, date, number of persons, and click search. And because I have a maximum budget, I filter it by price and choose from the list.
  • it has a map – it shows the exact location of the hotel/hostel/guesthouse/inn and also shows other nearby accommodations (and the corresponding price).
  • it encourages guests to leave reviews – guest reviews are important!
  • it offers free cancellation – most accommodations on offer free cancellation up to a certain number of days before the trip.
  • it requires no down payment – most accommodations on will only ask for credit card details to confirm the booking but won't charge it (unless you cancel the booking after the free cancellation period). There are also accommodations that don't require credit card details to book! Payment will be upon check in.
Download app here: Android | iOS

In Japan, time is gold. And transportation fares are as expensive as gold! Before the trip, I pinned all the places I wanted to visit. Doing so helped me save time and money. How? During the trip itself...
  • I didn't have to search for places and reorient myself every time. Minutes saved.
  • I could change around my itinerary based on my energy level, weather, and the location/proximity of the sites I was interested in. Bus/Train fares saved.
  • I could find shortcuts or take less trodden paths, like alleys or through residential areas (an added adventure).
  • If I find something new and interesting that wasn't part of the plan, I could pin it on my map to remember its location in case I wanted to go back. Minutes saved from searching again and/or from racking my brains trying to recall the location.
Download Google My Maps app here: Android

Japan Trains
Japan's rail network is impressive that it can get impressively confusing. Even locals get confused! (I have seen it with my own eyes!) There are many different rail operators. There are many types of trains: shinkansen (bullet train), express, limited express, local, etc. In short, there are many choices to get from point A to point B anywhere in Japan! The Japan Trains app will pare down the options depending on the information you have entered. The results will show the departure time, arrival time, fare, and number of transfers. Click on one of the options to find out more about the route: which lines and connections to take, arrival and departure times for each connection, fare for each connection, and time it takes to transfer/walk between stations.

Download Japan Trains app here: Android

In the city of Kyoto, Arukumachi Kyoto app trumps the Japan Trains app. Although there are subway lines and railways in the city of Kyoto, most of the city's attractions can be reached by bus, and obviously the Japan Trains app is only for trains.

For Arukumachi Kyoto app, just enter the departure and arrival areas (it doesn't have to be specific, just enter the street or tourist spot) and it will give more specific suggestions (station, bus stops, or spots). Search results will give you several options to get to your destination, showing the departure and arrival times, total bus fare (and if the 1-day Kyoto City Bus pass can be used), number of transfers, and what modes of transportation to take. Click on one of the options to find out more about the route: which bus/subway/rail to take, arrival and departure times for each connection, fare for each connection, and time it takes to transfer/walk between stops. Click on a connection to view the map. What I love about Arukumachi Kyoto's map is that it shows your current location, so when you're on the bus and have no idea if your stop is approaching, just check the map and watch the dot (you) move. Don't forget to press the bus stop button nearest you lest you miss your stop.

Download Arukumachi Kyoto app here: Android | iOS

With the guidance of the weather app, I could strut around the streets not looking like a fool for not wearing the right clothes, for not being caught in the rain mid-strut without an umbrella, for not shivering while strutting on a windy day.

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger (you're here!)

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
(more soon)

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan

Philippine passport holders can enter some countries visa-free. Unfortunately, Japan isn't one of them. It is best to apply for a tourist visa to Japan not more than three months before your intended travel date. Reason for this is that a single entry visa,  if granted, is usually valid for three months.

These are the requirements for a single entry tourist visa to Japan:
  • Philippine Passport – The passport should have your signature and should have at least two blank pages.
  • Application Form – Write N/A for not applicable items; do not leave blanks. Print the application form on A4 size paper. Do not forget to write the date and sign the form.
  • Photo – 4.5 cm x 4.5 cm, with white background, taken within six months from the date of application. Affix the photo on the application form.
  • Daily Schedule in Japan – Use the Schedule of Stay template found in the website. Indicate the address and contact numbers of the accommodations you plan to stay in.
  • Bank Certificate – should be issued within three months from the date of visa application
  • Photocopy of Income Tax Return (ITR Form 2316)
  • Birth Certificate – issued by NSO within one year from the date of visa application
  • Marriage Certificate – for married applicants; issued by NSO within one year from the date of visa application
  • Old passports with previous visas to Japan – If you have previous visas to Japan, there is no need to submit your birth certificate and marriage certificate.
Other documents that you may want to include:
  • Certificate of employment – if you are an employee. The document should contain your position, hire date, and salary.
  • Photocopy of company ID – if you are an employee
  • Photocopy of previous visas to Japan – no matter how old! Mine was from 1997!
  • Photocopy of plane ticket – if you were tempted to buy a promo ticket before applying for a visa. (Buying a ticket before applying for a visa is NOT recommended though.)
Note: All printouts and photocopies should be on A4 size paper.

For the list of requirements for other visa types, please refer to the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines website.

Tourist visa applications can only be processed through accredited agencies in Manila, Cebu, and Davao. The visa fee for a single entry visa is Php 1300 and the processing time is at least one week.

Of the four accredited agencies in Cebu, I processed mine through Friendship Tours in AS Fortuna St, Banilad, Mandaue City since it was the most accessible for me. They checked my requirements before accepting my application (if a document is lacking, they will wait for you to submit it before forwarding your application to the consulate). Upon acceptance of my application and requirements, I paid them and was issued a receipt with the application number. They contacted me through text message once the passport was ready for pickup.

I applied for a single entry visa and was unexpectedly and luckily granted a 5-year multiple entry visa. I don't know if having a used Japan visa no matter how old (mine was from 1997) played a part in that. As for the bank certificate, I read a blog that the blog author had about Php 60,000 in his account and was granted a visa for his 5-day planned trip; a friend had Php 80,000 in her account and was granted a visa for her 10-day planned trip. With this, I suggest having Php 60,000 as the minimum amount; Php 100,000 and above, even better. (The suggested amount is not a guarantee though—I really have no idea what the consul's basis are!—but I'm just sharing from what I have read and from friends' experiences.)

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan (you're here!)
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
(more soon)

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Japan: Know Before You Go

Before going to the Land of the Rising Sun, it might help you to know...

...that their language is Nihongo or Japanese. こんにちは みんなさん! Konnichiwa, minna-san! Hello, everyone! Prepare yourself to be greeted in Japanese and see signs in Japanese, written in a mix of Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana, and Katakana (used for non-Japanese loanwords). But do not worry, most tourist sites will also have signs in English and will have staff who speak English.

...that their currency is the Japanese yen . One US dollar is about 100 JPY, or 1 JPY is about 0.50 PHP. The current exchange rate might be lower or higher (do check the current rate), but I used that conversion just to give me an idea how much I was about to spend on a ramen (for easier mental calculation; my brains don't work when hungry).

...that their watches are set to Japan Standard Time (JST) which is 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time or Coordinated Universal Time (GMT/UTC +9), or one hour ahead of the Philippines. Speaking of time, for the Japanese time is very important. So never ever be late!

Warm autumn colors at Tofukuji in Kyoto

...that the country has four seasons: winter (December to February), spring (March to May), summer (June to August), and autumn (September to November). Depending on what month you visit (and which part of Japan you go to; for example, Okinawa is located on the south and rarely goes below 9ºC in the winter months), be prepared with the right clothes.

...that Japan has a total land area of almost 378 sq. km., has 47 prefectures (these prefectures are further grouped into 8 regions), and has a million things to see and do. Thus a warning: planning a trip to Japan might be a bit of a challenge... a challenge on what not to include in the itinerary.

Type A (left) and Type B (right) plugs

...that Japan uses Type A and Type B plugs at 110V. Most mobile phone and gadget chargers nowadays can be used for 100 to 240V, so you probably won't need a voltage converter. Some hostels/accommodations might also have USB ports.

Transportation passes

...that Japan's transportation network is so extensive that it can get confusing. Adding to that confusion are the many passes to choose from: countrywide pass (like the Japan Rail Pass, which is best if you plan to travel between regions a many number of times for the duration of the pass), regional passes (12 options from JR East, 8 options from JR West, 6 options from JR Central, and other rail company-specific passes), down to city-specific passes (city bus passes, city bus and subway combo passes). Which pass should you buy?!?

Flytpack pocket WiFi

...that free WiFi is hard to come by. But there are many options for pocket WiFi rentals in Japan: Japan Wireless, PuPuRu, SoftBank, to name a few. But if you'd like to announce to the world the second your plane touches down in Japan, you can also opt to rent a pocket WiFi from Flytpack, a pocket WiFi rental company based in Taguig City whose Japan partner is SoftBank.

Know Before You Go (you're here!)
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
(more soon)

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #48

On stopping hunger up in the air #2

If your budget-airline-flight home will be hours long and you haven't pre-ordered an inflight meal, don't spend every last cent of your local currency before you enter the pre-departure area of the airport. Leave some to buy a snack or a boxed meal so you will have something to eat on your plane ride home...that's if the airline allows you to eat "outside" food (food not bought inflight). If your airline does not allow "outside" food, then you'll have some money to buy an expensive piece of snack or meal on the plane.

Before my night flight from Busan to Cebu, I made sure to buy a boxed meal from the convenience store at the pre-departure area of Gimhae International Airport. During the flight, when it was time for dinner, I whipped out my boxed meal and smacked my lips. My friend who was sitting beside me laughed when she saw the guy across the aisle eyeing my meal and hungrily holding his stomach.

For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.

Monday, January 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? More Malaysia

Travel? I'm in.
It doesn't matter where, as long as I know what to wear and when we're going.
Spotted in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA2).

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hiking and Mini Canyoneering at Canso X

When I first learned that Canso X had a hiking trail (through the AVP they showed during their soft opening in 2014), I was excited and promised to come back for it. Nine months rolled by then 2014 was over. 2015 came and went.  Seven months into 2016 before I finally fulfilled that promise.

A 45–minute ride from the city, the v-hire (van) dropped five of us off at the entrance of Canso X. We were welcomed by Sir Raffy Osumo, the head of Canso X, like we were old friends. He gave us a short orientation, introduced the two guides, let us don our helmets and life vests, and wished us a fun hike.

Wearing our life vests while hiking!

The hike started off easy along a slightly sloping trail. But the easy hike coupled with the hot sun and the not so great idea of wearing helmets and life vests while hiking made us sweat like a waterfall just a few hundred meters into the hike. Whenever there was shade, we would stop to catch our breath and quench our thirst.

When we reached the river (or more like a stream), we happily waded in to cool off. Not much later, it was back on the mountain, uphill and downhill, passing by a carabao (water buffalo) that was cooling off in its little pool.

Excitement and nervousness came when we reached the area where the only way forward was to scramble down, get in the water, and swim to the other end.

And swim. And scramble. And swim. From there on we were all grinning as we scrambled and swam, scrambled and swam, moving forward and gaining distance.

And then our grins turned into nervous laughter when we reached a drop, gazed down at the emerald water, and was told the only way down was to jump. It wasn't high, mind you, but enough to make us ask ourselves why we ever agreed to go on this hike. I volunteered to go first, not because I had no fear, but because I was sure I'd get more nervous if I watched so many people jump.

My friend's turn

A short jump. Just two seconds in the air and into the water. I am proud to say we all did it (we had no choice). Even our friend who turned out to be afraid of jumping and who swore after that she would never ever do it again.

After that it was all easy breezy, hiking along the stream, and back on the mountain, walking uphill on grass towards Canso X where our Balamban liempo was waiting.

Canso X
Brgy. Cansomoroy, Balamban, Cebu
(032) 411 1600 loc 1471 / 0923 978 7640 / 0917 721 3535 / 0930 476 2207
Please call between 8AM to 5PM only.

The hike in Canso X is a good start if you're too scared to try the Alegria/Badian canyoneering. The hike follows a 4.5–kilometer trail that can be completed in three to four hours at a leisurely pace. It is recommended to call a day or two in advance so they can prepare the gear. Start the hike as early as 7AM.

Things to bring:
  • trail food and water
  • lunch – there is no restaurant in Canso X and there are no eateries nearby
  • change of clothes, towel, toiletries – Canso X has a shower area

How this hiking and mini canyoneering trip scared a hole through Mustachio's pocket:
V-hire (van), Ayala Terminal to Canso X (45mins) Php 120
Canso X Entrance fee Php 50
Canso X Hiking fee Php 200
V-hire (van), Canso X to Ayala Terminal (45mins) Php 100

Note: On Saturdays, it is possible to catch empty v-hires on the way to the city. On Sundays, you might have to go to Balamban and take a v-hire from there.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #47

On water

When near bodies of water, place your gadgets and important things in waterproof bags and/or secure them. And of course, never place your wet stuff in the same bag as all the other things that you have been trying to keep dry.

During a trip to Balabac, a friend lost two things on different days. First, his sunglasses fell in the sea without him noticing. Second, his smartphone fell from his pocket while he was helping another friend board the outrigger boat. He was able to fish the smartphone out, but it was beyond repair.

The second advice is common sense. But sometimes, in excitement, common sense escapes. Like in the case of another friend who had stuffed her dripping snorkel in the bag where she had her smartphone!

RIP (rust in peace), smartphones!

For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.