Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ways to Die in Tumalog Falls

Doesn't look too steep?
Wait until you get to the bend in the road.
Going to Tumalog Falls in Oslob, some 117 kilometers south of Cebu City, you will have six chances of dying.

Chance Number 1: By taking the Ceres bus from South Bus Terminal in Cebu City to Oslob.
Danger Level: Death may come within three hours, depending on the recklessness of the bus driver.
Cost: Php 149, one way

Chance Number 2: By taking a 10–minute motorcycle ride from the highway (junction for Tumalog Falls) up to the entrance for the waterfall.
Danger Level: 1–3. Depends on the motorcycle driver's skill and desire to drive like a devil. Road is cemented and not steep.
Cost: Php 120, roundtrip

If you have reached the entrance to Tumalog Falls without a scratch, here's Chance Number 3A: By taking the motorcycle death ride from the entrance down to the waterfall.
Danger Level: 5. Road is cemented with some steep inclines. Death imminent in two minutes or less.
Cost: Php 50, roundtrip

A quick death not your thing? Chance Number 3B: Walk from the entrance to the waterfall. And roll down the road over to the edge or get run over by those on the motorcycle death ride.
Danger Level: 3. Death may come in 10 minutes or less.
Cost: A bucket or two of sweat, especially when walking under the scorching midday sun. Also a bundle of quick reflexes and a high level of alertness for motorcycle dodging.

Lucky duck! You reached the waterfall with just sweaty armpits and aching knees? You have two more chances. Chance Number 4: Drown in Tumalog Falls' basin.
Danger Level: 1. You would have to struggle to drown in Tumalog Falls' very shallow pool. The deepest part is up to the waist only.
Cost: Php 20, fee should have been paid at the entrance, before taking Chances 3A or 3B.

It would be a struggle to drown here

Since the previous option was a poor one, Chance Number 5 has a higher probability of working: Stay under the waterfall and get hit by falling rocks. Okay, you probably won't die, but chances are high that you would get lumps in the head.

I am kidding. Tumalog Falls is safe. Chances of dying here are nil. I am sure everyone who comes here would feel lucky to be a witness to Tumalog Falls' splendor. Especially when looking up from under the waterfall (taking chance number 5?). I did. Look up from under the waterfall. And I thought the view, looking up while being pelted by water, and not rocks, was beautiful. And I felt absolutely lucky to be dwarfed by magnificent Mother Nature.

How Tumalog Falls contributed to my wallet's death:
Bus from South Bus Terminal to Oslob Php 149
Habalhabal (motorcycle) from highway (junction for Tumalog Falls) to the entrance for the waterfall and back Php 120
Tumalog Falls entrance fee Php 20

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6S in Dalaguete

SeekDalaguete is a municipality 85 kilometers south of Cebu City (just a two–hour, Php95 bus ride from South Bus Terminal). It is bordered by Argao on the north, Alcoy on the south, and Badian on the west.

Stay. There are a number of lodging houses and beach resorts in Dalaguete. We stayed in St. Therese Beach House, which has three rooms for rent: Php1300 for a single room and Php1500 for a triple. Its sister, St. Therese Lodging, is located a few meters from the highway, along the road going to Mantalongon. To book rooms in either place, contact Mrs Cecil Bono 0933 470 4289 or her daughter Valerie 0932 353 5750. Getting around the town is usually by pedicab (Php15 per pedicab).

(Left photo) St Therese Beach House, rooms for rent are on the building on the left.
(Right photo) Triple room, Php 1500, has AC, refrigerator, and ensuite T&B.

Summit. Osmeña Peak, the highest mountain in Cebu at 1013 meters above sea level is in Dalaguete. Osmeña Peak can be reached by even the most unfit of persons (me): by hiring a habalhabal (motorcycle, Php100 per way) from the highway/Mantalongon junction to the closest point, which will then leave you with just a short 15– to 20–minute very easy walk to the peak. Hardcore trekkers start off at Mantalongon Market (2–hour trek to Osmeña Peak), set up camp a few meters below the peak, and then traverse to Kawasan Falls in Badian (6– to 7–hour trek) the next day.

The magnificent view from Osmeña Peak

Spring. One of the local haunts especially during the scorching days is Obong Spring (a five–minute walk from the highway) near the southern end of Dalaguete. For just Php5 (entrance fee) per person, we, with a battalion others, cooled off in the spring's cold brackish water. Obong Spring is deep in some parts during high tide; non–swimmers and lazy swimmers can rent a salbabida or inflatable tube. Picnickers can rent tables and chairs (Php100) or open cottages. Oversaturated (read: fingers and toes have turned to prunes) swimmers can change into dry clothes in the changing rooms.

Obong Spring on a summer Sunday

Sea. Another local haunt is Dalaguete Beach Park, on the northern end of Dalaguete, along the border of Argao. Dalaguete Beach Park (about a kilometer from the highway) is a public beach (Php20 entrance fee) that is open from 7AM to 5PM only. There are no rooms for overnight stays. Daytrippers can rent tables and chairs or an open cottage. We visited a day after a big local summer beach party and the beach was, sadly, strewn with lots of garbage. We moved to the other end, beyond the wall, which, I think, used to be Argao Beach Club, and swam in the clear waters, occasionally picking up an assortment of junkfood wrappers, styrofoam containers, noodle cups, and other grocery item related stuff that have floated thataway. Dalaguete Beach Park is a nice—as in fine sand and clear waters—public beach...minus all the garbage.

On the other side of Dalaguete Beach Park's wall

Sidekick. I do not fear crowds, but I would rather be away from crowds. But we visited at the peak of summer when Osmeña Peak, Obong Spring, and Dalaguete Beach Park are crowd magnets. Nevertheless, I still had a great time at all three summer haunts, thanks to my band of sidekicks aka friends.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Namsan: Park, Tower, and Village

These tropical bodies (which, sadly, does not translate to beach bodies) started out at 930 in the morning as little Eskimos, bundled in thick coats, scarves, boots, and gloves. We left our little igloo (that felt like a very cold cave) to explore nearby Namsan Park, whose paths, our host told us, will lead us to N Seoul Tower in just 20 minutes.

Directions to Namsan Park:
Hoehyeon Area: Take subway line 4 to Hoehyeon Station and take exit 4, then walk for 20 minutes. 
Hannam Area: Take subway line 6 to Hangangjin Station and take exit 2. Then take bus #0014 and get off at Hyatt Hotel (Botanical Garden). Bus comes every 10 minutes and the bus ride takes about 10 minutes. 

Baekbeom Square on the northwest side of Namsan Park
is where we started our journey on foot

Twenty minutes by her legs she means! We started off from Sowol-ro (Sowol Road) following an ascending trail to Baekboem Square on the northwest side of Namsan Park. From Baekbeom Square, we followed the path, crossed a road, and found ourselves outside Global Village Folk Museum. Then more walking, taking us an hour and a half up so many steps to get to N Seoul Tower with the help of too much excess fat weighing us down and too many autumn leaves making us stop, pant, strip, stare, and shoot every few meters.

Directions to N Seoul Tower:
By subway and cable car: Take subway line 4 to Myeongdong Station and take exit 3. Walk about 10 minutes to the cable car station.
By subway and bus #2: Take subway line 3 or line 4 to Chungmuro Station and take exit 2. Hop on the Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle bus no. 2. You can also get on Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle bus no. 2 at Dongguk University Station (line 3, exit 6).
By subway and bus #3: Take Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle bus no. 3 from any of these stations: Seoul Station (line 1 or line 4, exit 9), Itaewon Station (line 6, exit 4), Hangangjin Station (line 6, exit 2).
By subway and bus #5: Take Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle bus no. 5 from any of these stations: Myeongdong Station (line 4, exit 3), Chungmuro Station (line 3 or line 4, exit 2).

We did not go up the tower observatory (admission fee of KRW9000; open from 10AM to 11PM, or up to 12MN on Fridays and Saturdays), but instead took photos of trees and leaves, refueled at one of the restaurants, and sat around for an hour and a half before going off again to burn off our lunch calories, take a gazillion more photos of trees and leaves, and to find our third and last Namsan stop.

From N Seoul Tower it was an easy (but hard on our oldie knees) walk down paths and steps surrounded by leaves of many colors on the ground and on trees. In an hour or so, we found ourselves in deserted backroads surrounded by houses and no directional signs. We had to stop several times to catch open WiFi signals and find ourselves in relation to Namsangol Hanok Village.

Namsangol Hanok Village
28, Toegye–ro 34–gil, Jung–gu, Seoul
Wednesdays to Mondays 9AM to 8PM
Free admission
Directions to Namsangol Hanok Village: Take subway line 3 or line 4 to Chungmuro Station, exit 3 or 4.

We eventually found Namsangol Hanok Village, a collection of five traditional Korean houses from different parts of the city that have been relocated at the foot of Namsan mountain. I was almost tempted to rent a hanbok from a shop just outside Namsangol Hanok Village, and pretend to be some ancient Korean in an ancient village. But I thought I'd soon feel silly and did not want to add more to the pile I was carrying, which was most of my Eskimo outfit.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

South Korea Quickie 2014
Wisdom from the Road #22
Seoul: Lessons From My Seoul Airbnb Experience
Seoul: Gwangjang Market
Seoul: Namsan: Park, Tower, and Village (you're here!)
Gyeongju: Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto
Wisdom from the Road #29
Busan: Mr Egg Hostel (Nampo)
Busan: Scenic Sites of Busan: Taejongdae and Oryukdo
Busan: Wishes at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Busan: 40gyedan–gil and Beyond
Busan: Gamcheon Culture Village
Busan: An Ignoramus in Busan
Daily Dose of Kindness in South Korea
Squeezing Three Cities and One Wallet in Five Days
Busan: What's in a (Business) Name? Busan

Friday, May 1, 2015

Wisdom from the Road #27

On sunsets
They're beautiful.
(Well sunsets are always beautiful anywhere.)
But, when in remote areas, never forget to bring a flashlight.

In Anawangin, Zambales, we decided to go up the little hill on one end of the beach to wait for sunset. Oh, we had a grand time up there taking in the reds and oranges of the sky and freezing it with our cameras. But when we realized we didn't have a flashlight with us, we hastily picked our way through tall grass and loose rocks, careful to avoid going over cliffs, back down to the beach while there was still a little light left. In our haste, we didn't notice one of our friends disappear (instead of going down, he went higher up the hill). When it got dark and he still hadn't come back, we all started to worry. We were all relieved when he came stumbling towards us out of the gloom. It was with a racing heart and sweaty armpits that he gingerly crawled his way down the hill. He, too, was worried about stepping into nothing and plunging into the sea.

In Laoag, back when there were no 4x4s to rent to get to La Paz Sand Dunes, my friend and I had to walk. It was quiet. It was deserted. It was beautiful. Especially during sunset. But the walk was long and the walk back felt longer than it really was when we had to walk in the dark because, yes, we hadn't thought to bring a flashlight.

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