My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #1 Traveling Alone

SOLO TRAVEL: AN ADVENTURE WORTH TRYING

This is a year late but still the most important travel goal I achieved last year. Among my circle of friends and family, traveling alone was not a normal occurrence. This was also one of my goals before turning 30 last April. I opted to go to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. I chose Vietnam because it was a place I had not been to.

Vietnam Traveling Alone

The hardest thing about traveling is wanting to go home and be with family yet still having the urge to continue moving forward and discovering new things. I know if it weren’t for my husband and son, I would probably just keep traveling until that thirst is fully quenched- which I know might never happen. I always get this wave of sadness as a trip comes to an end. It is something that I truly love and long to do everyday of my life. It is something that I know some people will never fully understand.

Vietnam tunnels

Traveling alone put certain things in perspective. It gave me the silence that I never thought I needed. It gave me peacefulness like I never knew existed within me. Like it said in Kent Nerburn’s book “You should spend time alone. I don’t just mean minutes and hours, but days and, if the opportunity presents itself, weeks. Time spent alone returns to you a hundredfold, because it is the proving ground of the spirit”.

I went to Vietnam not knowing anyone at all. But then realized that I was actually lucky to not have had friends there because it gave me that push to open up and talk to people. It was fulfilling. The good thing about this experience was it made me want to travel more on my own. It was not easy and it was very stressful at the beginning but at least I was able to do it and know that I’ll be able to do it again.

Vietnam

Vietnam 2

I also realized that other Filipinos are not used to seeing Filipinas traveling alone for pleasure (or maybe I just looked like a lost puppy). The ones that I talked to were quite shocked that I was on my own and immediately assumed I needed help and wanted to take me under their wing. This was also the case prior to my trip. Friends that I talked to about it wanted to know why I wanted to travel on my own and were quite bewildered that it was my own choice. It was sort of funny. But I’m truly grateful for all the kind people I met and got to spend time with.

The scary part of it all was being away from home when the big earthquake/tsunami hit Japan. My hotel room did not have a window and I could not help but think of the things that could happen. But like any other trip, despite the stress and frustrations I encountered (and the fact that there isn’t that much to do in Ho Chi Minh), I really had a good time. And though I don’t think I’ll have a lot of time to travel on my own again anytime soon, I would gladly do it again in a heartbeat.

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My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #4 Flåm, Norway

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the train ride from Flåm to Myrdal aboard the Flåmsbana. In relation to this, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen is Flåm. We took a short cruise from Bergen to get here. It’s not a loud and happening place nor is it a place to go to if you want to do something every minute of the day. It’s just a small village surrounded by fjords. It was peaceful, relaxing and I was captivated by its beauty. Sometimes when we travel for weeks at a time, I look forward to finding a quiet place such as Flåm, just to take a break from our usual fast paced journey. And I usually enjoy places such as this more than the typical urban cities. It is also a wonderful place to stay if you want to go around the different fjords because there are a lot of tours from this part of Norway. It’s a pretty good starting point/home base. You can also take short walks or hike around the surrounding areas. I am looking forward to the day that I can spend a longer time here and the rest of Norway.

flam norway

flam norway

My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #5 Maya Bay, Thailand

The Beach. Leonardo Dicaprio. That is what Maya Bay was all about. It is part of the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand. Yes I know going here was very “touristy”. It was the ultimate definition of being touristy. But it was still beautiful despite the number of people (you could literally step on someone while walking along the shore).

We booked a tour through Sanan, the cab driver that brought us to the hotel from the airport. The tour group was called Ao-Nang Photo Travel. If I remember correctly we were charged 1,200 Baht for each adult (our son was free). The speedboat was big and clean. We we around 20 in the group – a mix of kids and adults. The rate was inclusive of lunch, snacks and transfers to and from the hotel. Our guide was kind and enthusiastic so we were quite happy with them.

I’m probably just die hard Leo fan but it was fun being able to see where the movie was shot and to actually see that it was as magnificent as it was in the film (despite the controversy of how the landscaping for its filming damaged the island’s ecosystem) . The sand was fine and powdery. The water was clean and clear. It’s as simple as that. I wish that I could go there with less people so I could enjoy it more. The sad thing was because it was commercialized we realized a little too late that it was not as safe as the other isolated islands. My husband lost his sunglasses when he left it on top of our towel and while I was sitting right beside it. Nevertheless, I really hope that I could visit this place again and other spectacular islands of Thailand.

maya bay thailand

My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #6 Train Ride From Myrdal, Norway

My favorite thing about going around Europe is being able to travel by train. I love the hours I’ve spent watching views change from city to city. I love having that time to read, listen to music or watch movies. But regardless of where we are or where we are going to, I realized that train problems would always be a part of the journey.

norway train ride

To get to Olso from Flåm I had to change trains at Myrdal (Flam to Myrdal, Myrdal to Oslo). I remember thinking how my trip was ending in a few days and I could not believe that I still had not encountered a single transportation problem. The train from Myrdal was on time and everything was going smoothly when suddenly I realized that we started stalling for minutes at a time. Apparently the whole electronic system of their railway was not working properly and trains had to be stopped. We had to be get off at Nesbyen, a small town that I never heard of until that moment. I had no idea where I was nor did I have an idea how far away I was from Oslo. We were told that buses were requested and we were going to be picked up. We were divided into 2 groups (2 destinations) and most of the people had to go to Oslo. The buses started arriving one by one. As soon as they did, there was chaos. No system was implemented and a lot of people tried to get in first. I met an old couple from New York and I really felt bad because no one was letting them go first. We all couldn’t do anything but wait. Finally they were able to get on but I opted along with my companions to just wait until last bus.

One thing that I admired about people in Norway and Scandinavia in general was how helpful they always were. It seemed as though it was second nature to them to help other people especially tourists. There was one guy trying to help the tourists figure out what they were going to do while waiting for the buses. Since he spoke English very well, he went out of his way to approach people to ask if they were okay and if they needed help with anything.

I was able to catch the second to the last bus and found out that we were a couple of hours away from Oslo. This incident was memorable for me because despite the stress, it showed how organized first world countries were. Sure it was chaotic but anywhere else it might have taken forever just to figure out a solution to the problem. Another great thing that came out of it was I met great people along the way. Despite all the problems I’ve encountered in the past, I definitely still look forward to my next European rail experience.

waiting for the buses

buses

My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #7 Busan, South Korea

THE OCTOPUS QUEST

My trip to Busan and Seoul, South Korea last October was memorable as a whole but one very particular experience stood out. As soon as we arrived in South Korea my husband told us right away that he will not leave Korea without eating an octopus. Raw octopus is a famous Korean delicacy. They can be eaten chopped up or whole, depending on what you want or what you are used to. So during our last day in Busan, we went to the Jagalchi Fish Market in search for this special meal.

We ended up eating at the second floor of the indoor market (which I assumed was a tourist area since the prices were a bit steep). We ordered a lot of food and it was delicious! We had raw fish/sashimi (that was wrapped in greens with chili sauce), abalone (sooo gooood!!), fried fish and a lot more.

jagalchi fish market

jagalchi fish market

We were served a chopped baby octopus with seaweed and drizzled with sesame oil. I think the waitresses were afraid to give us something bigger since we obviously did not know what we wanted. It was still alive when they served it and did not stop moving until probably around 20 minutes later. My husband and friends eagerly tried it despite the crawling yet chopped tentacles. I tried it only when nothing was moving on the plate. I really didn’t expect to like it but it was pretty awesome. I was glad that they literally forced me to try it, otherwise I would have missed out on an experience of a lifetime.

Busan raw octopus dish

My Top 8 Travel Memories Of 2011: #8 Los Angeles, USA

2011 was an amazing year. I’ve had an extreme mix of travel experiences and I am utterly grateful for all of them. I am thankful that my desire and love for traveling had not diminished. And I am truly grateful that I was able to spend the year exploring new places while reaching personal travel goals. So now I want to share with you my favorite travel memories from the past year.

It might sound a bit corny to most but my #8 travel experience of the year was going to Los Angeles to watch the WWE Summer Slam. It’s not everyday that I get to travel with new people and take part in something different. One of my friends won a WWE Summer Slam promo. He was allowed to bring one friend and since his girlfriend as well as closest guy friends couldn’t go, he gave the ticket to me! And who would turn down an all expense paid trip??? It was a blast!

For those of you wondering if I’m a WWE fan, I’m actually not anymore but I know who some of the wrestlers are. I used to be a huge fan when I was younger though. I even watched them live when they went to Manila when I was still a kid.

We only stayed for 5 days but we were able to do so much. We were the ultimate definition of LA tourists and it was great!!! I missed being just a regular tourist on tour.

We went to Universal Studios and the King Kong 360 3-D (studio tour) was pure magic!!! I missed Universal more than anything because the last time I was in LA I was pregnant so couldn’t go. We also went to the outlets which was really fun for me because I hardly shop when I travel.

Los Angeles Universal Studios

I was able to try KyoChon (in Korea Town) which I constantly crave now and which Bonchon can never replace.

kyochon los angeles

I was able to have dinner at The Boiling Crab which was mind-blowing! The food was fabulous and it is now definitely one of my all time favorites.

the boiling crab los angeles

los angeles the boiling crab

But of course my favorite was being able to watch WWE at the Staples Center. The energy at the stadium was infectious. Our seats were awesome and it was really exciting. And even though we all knew it was fake, it was still as entertaining as ever. As a bonus, Cee Lo Green performed live and I loved him!! Great memories. New friends. It couldn’t have gotten any better than that. It was truly a trip worth remembering.

WWE summer slam 2011

WWE summer slam 2011 LA 1

WWE summer slam 2011 LA 2

WWE summer slam 2011 LA 3

WWE summer slam 2011 LA 4

Captured In Time: Angkor Wat, Cambodia

A Traveler’s Photo Project

007. THE WARMTH OF THE MORNING SUN

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is probably one of the most photographed temples in this world and deserves to be so. But keep in mind that Angkor Wat is only one of the numerous temples that you can see around Angkor. The Angkor temples with its rich history is truly a magnificent place to visit.

Like most tourists we went to Angkor Wat before sunrise and waited. I stood there watching the sun slowly fill the temple complex with its light and I was truly amazed. So I took this picture to remind me of the most beautiful sunrise that I’ve come across in my life.