Life is beautiful. Thank you 2013.

Tasmania family picture

Life IS beautiful, isnt it? I look back at the past year and know how fortunate I’ve been. Today, just like every first of the year, I feel as though I’ve done too much and yet I’ve done too little. I feel as though I blinked and the year is over. I feel as though I have more than I deserve. I feel as though I want time to slow down a bit so that I can appreciate each and every second that I get. The new year always brings out a truckload of emotions that usually boils down to gratefulness because I am truly grateful for each and every experience He has given me.

1. I am thankful for my family – every hug, smile, kiss, phone call, skype/facetime, message – every moment I spend with them makes life worth living.

2. I am thankful for friends – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – my friends are like family to me. He gave me the most wonderful set of friends in the Philippines (and my best friend in America) who I love and miss and who I know despite the distance will be my greatest strength and support. He also blessed me with a great bunch here in Australia – friends who make my new life here more colorful. Friends who have now seen me happy, hyper, in tears, in turmoil, in all my weirdness and still love me for who I am (I hope. haha). I am extremely lucky. Thank you all for being in my life.

3. I am thankful for being able to visit new places. The past year made me realise yet again that there is really a lot to see in this world. There is so much beauty yet to be discovered. I wasn’t able to visit a new country this past year which is a bit weird – but oh the new places I’ve visited (like the one in the picture), just took my breath away. I am thankful that my son sees the magic of traveling and I am thankful that I get to see those places that I’ve been to through the eyes of a five year old. There is no greater gift than to see the world with your family. There’s this quote that I read somewhere that said “This heart of mine was made to travel this world” and I know I will always feel that way and I am utterly grateful that I do.

4. I am thankful for Australia. I’ve been here for almost two years and I still feel as excited and blessed as I did when I first arrived. I was watching the fireworks last night and I still can’t believe that I was there watching one of the best fireworks displays in the world. It might seem insignificant for some but at that moment I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

5. I am thankful for 2013. We are all blessed. That is one thing that I’ve realised even more the past twelve months. We can’t look at other people and wish we had what they have because our own lives are so full of special things, people and experiences. I am so grateful for what I have. I have been given more than I could ever wish for. Words aren’t enough to express how indebted I am to Him.

Wishing you all a very happy and blessed new year! May this new year bring you closer to your dreams and give you what your hearts truly desire.

Thank you 2013. You have been amazing! And welcome 2014, I know you will be even more incredible!

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My Top 5 Destinations for 2010

As another year ends, my journey and dream to travel the world continues. But I believe it is only fitting that I look back at the numerous, blessed trips that I was able to take this 2010. Among the old and new places that I have visited this past year, these are my top 5 favorites:

1. Lucerne/Luzern (German), Switzerland

When I was a little girl, I remember sitting on our living room sofa staring at my dad’s wall of travel trinkets (stickers, pins, flags, pictures, plates, etc). I clearly remember looking at one particular banner type of decor that said “Luzern” and seeing one plate with a picture of a wounded lion. This started my love affair with this particular place. Every so often I would look at these souvenirs and wondered where they came from. I even remember playing the game ‘name, place, animal, thing’ with my grade school classmates and getting into arguments because they didn’t believe that there was a place called “Luzern” (and I couldn’t tell them exactly where it was). I would get postcards from Lucerne and kept dreaming that someday I would be able to visit this enchanting city.

And true enough, as I stepped off the train when we got to Lucerne I felt like all my wishes were coming true. I avoid making bucket lists for one particular reason –I get obsessed with having to complete them. But going to Lucerne has always been one of my greatest dreams. I felt silly getting teary eyed when I finally got a chance to walk across the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) and when I finally saw the Lion Monument. But just this once, I let the little girl inside me savor each moment that I had in that wonderful city.

Lion of Lucerne

Lucerne Chapel Bridge Kapellbrücke

Lucerne Chapel Bridge and Water Tower

Reasons to go back: Beautiful landscapes, Charming city, The Swiss Alps, Saturday markets, Chocolates, Shopping

2. Paris, France

Paris, Je T’Aime! Paris is love, love, love. I love the Parisian lifestyle, I love the glitter, I love the quaintness of it all. Being in Paris is a whole new experience in itself. You will never run out of things to do, places to see & shops to conquer. This is one city that I will keep coming back to. Je t’aimerai toujours.

Paris Eiffel Tower La Tour Eiffel

Paris View at night

Reasons to go back: Beautiful city, Fabulous food, Great wine, Experience

3. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

The Bernese Oberland is a magical area in Switzerland. This area comprises of different destinations including Lauterbrunnen which was our base for a number of days. Lauterbrunnen is a small valley with waterfalls and majestic views. We wanted to go up the Alps, specifically  the Jungfrou, so I chose this place since it was somewhat a transportation hub. I didn’t expect that my husband would end up wanting to visit all the surrounding areas, so staying here was really a plus.

Bernese Oberland Lauterbrunnen Switzerland

The Top of Europe Jungfraujoch

Lauterbrunnen

Reasons to go back: You will never really run out of places (specifically mountains and alps) to go to, Weather, Cheese

4. Seam Reap/Angkor, Cambodia

Seam Reap is actually just the gateway to Angkor, where the beautiful and unique ruins of the Khmer Empire lie. Cambodia has always been known for Angkor Wat but unless you’ve actually been there you won’t expect the Angkor area to be that huge and how Angkor Wat is just one of the many temples that you can visit. My personal favorites are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Banteay Srei. Another popular temple is Ta Prohm where “Tomb Raider tree” can be found. But I wouldn’t go back to Kbal Spean – EVER. Another thing that I enjoyed was eating Khmer food – one of the best and least expensive I ever had! I would keep coming back to Cambodia even if only for their food.

Angkor Wat Cambodia

Restaurant in Cambodia

Reason to go back: FOOD!

5. Gold Coast, Australia

Australia is the land of koalas, kangaroos, fish & chips and surfing! Gold Coast has always been my favorite Australian city and is always a highlight of my year when I get to visit. I love walking around Surfer’s Paradise, just relaxing and taking it slow. For the adventurous bunch, there is always surfing and of course the numerous theme parks Gold Coast is known for. I like that whether I’m on my own or with my family or with my spouse, there will always be something for me to do.

Surfers Paradise

Surfing Lessons in Surfers Paradise

Reasons to go back: Relaxation, Theme parks/activities, Weather

Happy New Year everyone and happy travels in 2011! 🙂

Australia Highs (2010)

My family and I spent 2 weeks in Australia early this month. It was pretty tiring but still amazing since I was able to spend time with my son 🙂 In addition to that I discovered a couple of things that totally made the trip worthwhile…

Favorite Hotel/Apartment

Towers of Chevron Renaissance, Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast (I was pretty set on choosing a beachfront apartment but luckily I was vetoed by my husband and sisters in law. We loved this place! It was close to everything and the our apartment had a spectacular view of the river and docks. http://www.chevronrenaissance.com.au/ — a reminder: check out time in Australia is at 10 am not 12 noon).

Best Dish/Food/Meal

Ribs from Hurricane’s Grill, Darling Harbour, Sydney (http://www.hurricanesgrill.com.au/about-hurricanes/hurricanes-darling-harbour;  Big, TASTY ribs and chips/fries…need I say more? But I need to share my worst/least favorite dish from Sydney – Meat Pie from Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – http://www.harryscafedewheels.com.au. A lot of people will disagree for sure since this is a staple dish but I cannot stress this enough —- I HATE MASHED PEAS!!!!! I actually wanted to throw up right after my first bite but this is just my personal opinion. We were 8 in our group and I was the only one who didn’t appreciate mashed peas).

Favorite Dessert

Deep Fried Mars Bars from Bondi Beach, Sydney (Heaven help me if we had this here in Manila. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST DESSERTS EVER. http://www.bondisurfseafood.com.au/mars/mars_fr.htm)

Deep-fried Mars Bar Picture from http://grabyourfork.blogspot.com/2009/11/food-bloggers-birthday-and-mountain-of.html


Favorite Snack

Tim Tam Chewy Caramel (I love all Tim Tam snacks but this is my favorite! http://www.arnotts.com.au/our-products/products/arnotts-tim-tam.aspx)

Best Non-alcoholic Drink

Guylian Shake – Prailine and vanilla shake with guylian chocolate syrup from Sydney’s Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe (I’m addicted to sweets and milkshakes. I’ve tried numerous shakes all over and this tops my list – nothing comes close! http://www.guyliancafe.com.au/)

Best Alcoholic Drink

Jack Daniel’s Cola from Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast (I’m a Jack Daniel’s girl. I don’t drink beer but can have Jack Daniel’s for breakfast. So while we were shopping for drinks – my husband always tries different beers from different countries/cities – I found bottles of Jack Daniels Cola. MIXED! SOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!! Expensive (around 17 aud for 4 bottles) but REALLY GOOD. On that note, I also found Johnny Walker Red Label Cola which sucked and Jim Beam Cola which was surprisingly good as well. One of my favorite discoveries = Jack Cola + Tim Tam Chewy Caramel!!! YUM!!!!)

Favorite Park/Zoo

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast (Staying true to it’s slogan you really “get closer” to the animals 😛  http://www.currumbin-sanctuary.org.au/ )

Favorite Tourist Spot

Sydney Opera House, Sydney (I always remember being a kid and seeing the Opera House for the first time. This was my 3rd time in Australia and my 3rd time to visit this and it always feels like the first time. As an added bonus we were also able to experience vivid sydney – http://vividsydney.com)

Favorite City

Gold Coast (I’m a bit biased but I’m really in love with Gold Coast – specifically Surfer’s Paradise. If I could I would live there!)

Favorite Australian Animal

Koalas (Most people would probably say the same too, I know my husband would – he’s obsessed with Koalas. My son on the other hand adores kangaroos. Even though he’s smaller than them he would go near them and try to pet them and play with them. Totally scary from a mother’s point of view but I’m sure it was fun for him.)

Australia will always be one of my favorite countries to visit. The cities we visited, I have been to 2x before so hopefully the next time around we get to see more of this beautiful country 🙂