Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Thank You 2019

Grateful for...
  • vacation leaves, my job (aka my travel fund), and my team for not bugging me about work while I am on vacation.
  • travel buddies! I miss having company (most of my trips since 2016 were solo trips).
  • free snacks at Haozhan Hotel, our hotel in Taipei.
  • although it rained most of the time we were in Taiwan, the light rain never turned torrential.
  • Taipei foodtrip with friends! We stuffed ourselves at Mala Hotpot twice, and discovered some good local haunts too.
  • traveling in a group. When we missed the train to Ruifang (from Shifen), we decided to chip in for a taxi rather than wait for the next train, so we could get to Jiufen before dark.
  • free Taipei walking tours through Klook.
  • my friend for treating us to a daytrip to Sumilon Island.
  • catching the sunset at Iho Tewoo Beach in Jeju.
  • the ladies on the bus who were concerned my friend and I might get off at the wrong bus stop so she helped us figure out how to get back to Jeju City from Jeju Light Art Fest (which is not frequented by the local bus).
  • having company while waiting in a dark and lonely road in Jeju so late at night.
  • beautiful sunny days for Jeju Olle hikes around Udo Island and Gapado Island.
  • grey skies but no rain while we were at Osulloc Tea Fields (it only started to rain while we were waiting for the bus back to Jeju City).
  • my travel buddy for being game to do all the hikes on this trip—we did five: Geomun Oreum, Udo Island, Gapado Island, Gamcheon Village (we followed the entire walking route on the map so we could collect stamps!), and Igidae Coastal Walk.
  • JungIn and JeongHun for spending time with us (and for lunch!) on our last day in Busan.
  • my sister for letting me join their roadtrip to/foodtrip in Bacolod.
  • Cebu Pacific's schedule change to my Narita flights (I had booked it 10 months early and there was a change later in the year). Why am I grateful? Because I got to rebook it without any fees and to the weekend I originally planned (it wasn't on promo when I purchased the ticket).
  • a flight schedule that arrives at Narita International Airport when their post office is open. Why? I could have the rented pocket WiFi mailed there instead of the hostel, thus I could have my trusty Google Map to help me get to the hostel.
  • the lone customer at the stand-up noodle shop in Asakusa for helping me order from the machine which was in Japanese.
  • the noodle shop owner for squeezing out all the hidden Tagalog words from his brain when he found out I am from the Philippines.
  • Hiromi for picking me up at Takasaki Station, welcoming me to her home in Maebashi City, feeding me, taking me around Gunma, and driving me to Isesaki Station so I could catch a train to Tochigi. How can I ever repay you?
  • God for giving me analytical skills to figure out the detours in the Senjogahara Marshland trail maps (in Japanese) and for keeping me safe during my solo hike through bear country in Nikko.
  • having a pork bun handy when I missed my bus in the middle of nowhere and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one...I was getting hungry.
  • friends for joining 2/3 of my Kanto (Japan) trip and for setting their alarms at the appointed time (we started our days early).
  • my friend for booking our hostel in Asakusa (Oak Hostel Fuji), and in Odawara (Tipy Records Inn).
  • the chance to see the special exhibit of Van Gogh's works at the Ueno Royal Museum.
  • beautiful late afternoon sun when we visited Sengokuhara Pampas Grass Field.
  • awesome views of Owakudani below the Hakone Ropeway.
  • clear skies for a view of Mt Fuji from Komagatake.
  • stopping by Amazake Chaya: the amasake was indeed worth the stop!
  • my friend for letting us use her credit card at the last minute to secure our hostel booking at Hotel Own Tokyo Nippori when the system didn't accept mine. Wahhh!
  • my friend for letting us try the steamed (and expensive!) king crab she bought at Tsukiji Outer Market.
  • not getting drenched in the rain while we were in Hamarikyu Garden without an umbrella!
  • my friends for not complaining when I walked too fast.
  • the Keisei Nippori Station staff for letting me enter without a ticket so I could check in advance where the ticket exchange window was (I needed to exchange my voucher into an actual ticket first thing on the day I leave).
  • the person manning the ticket exchange for letting me get a Keisei Skyliner ticket six days in advance though the instructions I had read was that vouchers were to be exchanged for tickets only on the day of travel.
  • my friend for being game to rent costumes at Iyashi no Sato, and for being patient when we got on the wrong bus (well, it was the correct bus but in the wrong direction).
  • great weather for our Fuji-overload trip.
  • enjoyable ride on the chairlift to Mt Takao. Instead of taking the cable car down, we decided to take the chairlift again. It was that enjoyable!
  • Anju for meeting me for dinner despite her busy work schedule.
  • Yumiko for showing us around Kawagoe and for treating us to lunch.
  • my more than 7-year-old luggage for holding on until the last day (on the way to the airport, the rubber on one of the wheels peeled off).
  • discounted deals in Klook. I availed at least one activity for each of my three international trips this year.
  • Casa Gorordo Museum's free guided tour. (They had free guided tours every Sunday of October to celebrate the Museums and Galleries Month.)
  • Casa Gorordo Museum's interesting and free talks (with free snacks)! Was able to attend one about the excavations in Boljoon. The speaker sure had a knack to keep his audience hooked.
  • my sister for the Anjo World passes. I did not think I would enjoy it, but I did! And my nephew and niece had fun too!
  • Hannah for booking Emerald Suites CDO (really good location!) for a bunch of us.
  • my officemates for the laugh trip at Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park.
  • leave credits to take the last two work days off. I finally had time to write some blog articles after more than a year in hiatus.
  • friends and readers for encouraging me to keep this blog alive.

Monday, December 30, 2019

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

Bili ka na dito! Kasimura!
Spotted in Ihran Building in Liloan, Cebu

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Monday, December 23, 2019

GPSmyCity Giveaway: Happy Holidays!

The GPSmyCity team has gathered thousands of travel articles and city guides written by travelers like you and me and have put all these travel information in one app. With the GPSmyCity app installed on your smartphone, whether iOS or Android, you have the world on the palm of your hand.

The GPSmyCity app can be used offline, therefore, you can read the articles and use the guides without the need to be on roaming or renting a pocket WiFi or data SIM. You can go on a tour at your own pace. By accessing (for a minimal upgrade fee) the GPS-aided map, the places mentioned in the guide will be pinned on the map, tour routes will be displayed, and turn-by-turn directions between places will be provided. No need for paper maps!

I have been contributing articles in the GPSmyCity app and I am happy to announce for this holiday season, we are giving away FREE upgrades (to access its GPS-aided map) to two travel articles:
Please click on the link (or links) that interest you and try it out! (If you haven't already downloaded and installed the GPSmyCity app, it will prompt you to do so.)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park

Forgive me for the few photos in this post—I did not plan to write about this Dahilayan trip and had purposely left my camera in Cebu, leaving me with just my four-year-old phone and its less than stellar camera. I had to grab some photos from friends.

Why, at the end of that Friday, did I decide to blog about Dahilayan? Because my friends and I had a ton of fun even if we only tried very few of the activities offered.

Rewind to around 10am on said Friday. A short walk from Emerald Suites CDO, my friends and I found the Magnum Express Terminal in Limketkai. We were disappointed to find that they only had one shuttle per day and it had already left at 845am (Php 249/way; the return trip is at 445pm)! We almost resigned ourselves to malling (eee-yuck!) had the Magnum Express staff not suggest we rent their 6-seater which would cost Php3000 roundtrip. We were six in the group and that was perfect—it would cost each of us Php500—about the same had we taken the shuttle roundtrip.

On the way to Dahilayan

It was a 1.5-hour drive to Dahilayan and because it was four of my friends' first time in Dahilayan, we made a quick stop at the giant pineapple for their mandatory tourist photo!


We arrived in Dahilayan Adventure Park with growling stomachs. Top priority? Lunch! It had started to rain lightly so we herded ourselves to their lodge called Pine Grove Mountain Lodge where there was a restaurant.

Photo by Diane Pacatang

By the time we finished lunch, the drizzle had transitioned to heavier rain and we were forced to sit it out and ponder what activities to spend our money on. One of my friends who was so excited to try the Drop Zone (Php500 single/Php750 tandem) was dismayed to find out she was strictly not allowed(!!!) to do any of the activities because of her recent root canal. She just watched (in envy?) two of our friends do all three ziplines (ZipAll Package Php600, includes the 840m, 320m, and 150m ziplines).

 320m zipline

840m zipline

Since no one was brave enough to try the Sky Jump (we did not see anyone try this out), nor were our wallets brave enough to try the Python Roller Zipride (it looked like a rollercoaster-ish zipline; would have been interesting, I think)....

The Sky Jump tower

...it was time to head next door to Dahilayan Forest Park (admission fee Php 130), where our target was to try the luge (two rounds of luge for Php600, includes hanging bridge and mini golf). Before the trip I had kept bugging them to try the luge with me. Thankfully they had prepared their nerves (well, the ladies' nerves) and wallets for it!

In order to get to the starting line of the luge, we had to don a helmet (with a hairnet under!) then cross the hanging bridge. My recently-root-canaled friend bravely stepped on the bridge, leading our group. A few steps across and then we came to a halt! She was not prepared for the shaking and swaying (I intentionally made the bridge shake and sway *evil laugh*) and had stooped and walked across very, very slowly...like a great grandpa.

Hanging bridge

I don't know how long it took us to cross that short bridge, but it seemed like a pretty long time! We were all shaking (from laughter) and coughing (from laughter) as we trudged toward the starting line of the luge.

We were told to hold down the handle bars to prevent the luge from moving forward as we settled our butt on a luge and to push the handlebars forward to release the brake (the farther you push it, the faster the luge goes). We zigzagged along the track and were soon at the finish line (we like speed!).

We piled into the shuttle to take us back to the starting line for round two.

At the finish line!

Round two was slow: another group was causing a traffic jam because they were taking selfies. The evil half of me wanted to ram into them but that might land me a punch in the nose. Patience, self, patience. We will all get to the finish line. And when we did get to the finish line, my friends and I wanted more! Alas, money was no more!

We skipped the mini golf—there was no time (we wanted to leave by 4pm to avoid the rush hour in CDO). There were other activities at the Forest Park, and before leaving the park, we checked out the classic cars outside the 50s Diner, and the picnic grounds.

 Classic cars outside the diner

Picnic Grounds (Photo by Diane Pacatang)

Right across the entrance/exit of the Forest Park, we found our rental van and inside it our slumbering driver. We were all buckled in and ready to head back to CDO by 3:59pm. Right on time.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Emerald Suites CDO

I found the perfect accommodation in Cagayan de Oro City for mall rats! Well, actually, it was my friend who chose Emerald Suites and what a good choice it was!

Emerald Suites, located on Jose Agudo Street, is flanked my malls: SM CDO Downtown Premier and Limketkai on the east; and Centrio and Gaisano City Mall on the west. Even if I'm not a mall rat, I found this really convenient because 1) malls have many restaurants; 2) airport shuttle terminals are a short walk away—LAX Shuttle in Centrio is just a 2-minute walk from Emerald Suites, and Magnum Express in Limketkai is an 8-minute walk from Emerald Suites; and 3) Magnum Express in Limketkai has a daily shuttle (8:45am) to Dahilayan (Bukidnon).

Photo from Booking.com

We stayed in a Superior Room (Php 1750 regular rate / Php 1480 promo rate). The room is good for two, with breakfast. Towels and soap are provided. The room has a TV, air conditioner, cabinet, dresser, phone, and a water container and two glasses. You can call the reception and ask them to fill the water container for you. (Tip: Have your room cleaned daily and they will change the towel.)

Superior Room (Photo from Emerald Suites CDO facebook page)

The Superior Room can accommodate up to four persons—an extra bed (double or single) costs Php300 per night. (If you want to sleep like sardines on the bed, you only have to pay Php150 per extra person.) But the extra bed fee does not include breakfast nor towels. Extra breakfast is Php180, and extra towel is Php50 (per day).

The room we stayed in did not have a mat (minus points) outside the bathroom but did have a pair of mismatched rubber slippers. (The other Superior Room some friends were staying in had a mat.) The shower had a heater (plus points).

There were only two power outlets in the room and it was located near the door and dresser (minus points if there are three to four people staying in the room—I am sure each one has at least one gadget to recharge every day.)

Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am at the ground floor (this area is open during breakfast hours only). There are four breakfast options and the menu is changed daily (plus points).

The reception is on the second floor, and rooms are on floors two to four. A warning for those who can't pack light: There is no elevator.

You can book a seat on the LAX Shuttle (Php199) at the reception and the van will pick you up (plus points) at Emerald Suites CDO half an hour before the shuttle schedule (the LAX shuttle to Laguindingan Airport runs every hour). The ride from CDO to Laguindingan Airport takes 50 minutes to an hour.

Emerald Suites
Jose Agudo St.
Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Philippines
(088) 880 7745 / 0922 849 6450 / 0917 316 8949
facebook page: Emerald Suites CDO

Book Emerald Suites CDO through Booking.com

Monday, December 9, 2019

Anjo World

I took my nephew and my niece (both are 10 years old) to Anjo World, a small amusement park in Minglanilla, a municipality about 15 kilometers south of Cebu City. Considering we lived in the north, it was a long way for us to go. And with Cebu's notorious traffic, was it even worth the time?

The drive there wasn't bad at all—it was a Sunday! Haha! We arrived at Anjo World a little before 5pm and had expected there'd be a lot of people, but, nope, the queue for tickets (Php600 weekend unlimited pass; Php 800 with Snow World entry) was short! (Tip: Have the kids' height measured first before buying tickets. The rides have a height restriction and there are some rides that will require kids below a certain height to be accompanied by an adult.)

Of the dozen rides in Anjo World, the first one the kids wanted to get on was the Viking. It looked harmless! I remember enjoying this ride when I was younger but the last time I rode on one (was it at Enchanted Kingdom in Laguna?), I sat at the end of the ship, and I felt my knees throughout the ride. I vowed never to go on one again! (Yes, I am old!) The kids sat in the middle of the ship—the area with the less queasy effect on the tummy—and even then, my niece couldn't help but ask herself "Tell me again why I rode this?!"

The next one they dared try was the Space Shuttle. This one goes around in circles and because I am prone to motion sickness, this and other rides that rapidly go in circles (five out of the dozen rides in Anjo World) are off my list! Best not to make a fool of myself, yes?

Space Shuttle before take off

I steeled myself for the Tower Drop (the look of this ride scared the kids and they gave it a pass). I had been on a similar one (takes you to the highest point and suddenly drops you) some 15 years ago and had enjoyed the free fall feeling. But the Tower Drop was different: this one revolves around the tower and drops, repeating a couple of times throughout the ride. On the way up I couldn't help but laugh, but at the sudden drop, I'd scream like a girl. Repeat laugh-and-scream countless times.

I encouraged the kids to try Mr. Toad, a shorter and non-revolving version of the Tower Drop. We got strapped in, and my niece, seeing the lady beside her without a seatbelt, exclaimed in alarm "She doesn't have a seatbelt!" Which was alright since there was a bar to keep the riders in place. Mr. Toad's drops were short, sudden, and successive, much like a frog hopping. My nephew did not like the feeling at all and had closed his eyes and was quiet throughout the ride. He was about to turn as green as a toad.

All the four rides we had just tried either had no or just a very short queue, but the next one, the London Taxi (bumper cars), we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes. There are 10 cars and each turn takes about five minutes. We tremendously enjoyed ramming into all the cars as hard as we could!

London Taxi (Bumper Cars)

The Pharaoh, a spinning coaster (the seats spin as it goes along the rail), looked interesting. And it seems everyone else thought it interesting too—the queue was too long (only four could ride at a time)! Instead of wasting our time waiting in line, the kids just tried their luck at the game booths (each game costs a minimum of 5 tokens at Php10 per token). There were five (or was it six?) games but I could only remember three: a game where you had to toss a ring around a colored bottle, another where you had to topple some tin cans with a small hand sack, and another where you had to make the ball bounce off a board and into a basket.

Our stomachs were begging us to have dinner (there are snack and souvenir shops inside Anjo World, and a food court outside), but the kids wanted to go on the Bumper Boats. It looked boring: the boats were too slow. But the surprise there was the water pistol attached to each boat. My nephew gleefully aimed his water pistol at the strangers who came within range. One little girl got soaked!

Bumper Boats

The last one we got on was the Anjo Eye, a 9-minute ride in an air-conditioned crystal cabin with background music and a bit of narration. A slow and relaxing ride to end our day in Anjo World!

Looking down from Anjo Eye

I do not regret skipping Mr. Cup, Golden Carousel, Boomerang, and Hip Hop. But I do regret not taking a lot of photos: I was too busy enjoying the day to even think of taking out my phone!

GOOD NEWS! Up to December 31, 2019, Anjo World has a 3-Ride Pass available for only Php180. If I have the chance to go back, I would opt for this 3-Ride Pass and just go on the Tower Drop three times (or maybe the Tower Drop, London Taxi, and, if I gather enough pluck, the Pharaoh!).