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

How Connected Is The Philippines?

The Global Traveler (http://boardingarea.com/blogs/theglobaltraveller/) came up with the Flight Connectivity Index (FCI) – a list to show how connected countries are to each other via air travel. Every six months he would check and update this list. As of June 2011, topping the list were Germany (110 direct flights), France (108 direct flights) and the UK (106 flights). Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino on the other hand, have no flights that go in and out of their countries.

map of the philippines

So how connected are we? The Philippines is number 78 on the list with 21 direct flights. 78 is not bad out of 192 but with only 21 direct flights traveling is still not that easy for us Filipinos. Hopefully in the near future more flights will be added so that it will be cheaper for us to see the world (crossing fingers for open skies!!!! :)).

http://boardingarea.com/blogs/theglobaltraveller/2011/07/flight-connectivity-index-as-at-30-june-2011/

The KLM/Lonely Planet Mission

Last month, Digital Photographer Philippines posted on its forum website details about KLM’s “On Assignment: Europe” Competition. People were asked to submit a portfolio of 12 pictures – 1 of which should have been themed “Journeys of Inspiration” and make a pitch why they should be chosen. The grand prize? The top 6 will compete in a shootout locally and the top 2 from that shootout will be sent to Amsterdam to create a piece for Lonely Planet Magazine Philippines. The top 6 will each be getting an Ipad 2 and Phottix Camera Accessories while the top 2 in addition to the trip and getting those items will also be getting Tamrac bags and a brand new Sony Nex-5.

I have thousands of pictures rotting in my hard drive because I hardly enter my photos in competitions. I leave the joining to my husband who is more diligent when it comes to these things. But this time around he advised me to join saying that I had nothing to lose and that everyone had a fighting chance. So after days of thinking about it and going through my stock photos to check if I had 12 pictures that were good enough, I decided to give it a try.

Around 120 people submitted pitches and much to our surprise, my husband and I were both chosen to be part of the top 6. Not a lot of people knew that we were husband and wife because I don’t carry his last name so that must have been a shock for them as well. But we were picked and I couldn’t have been more thankful. I probably had a smile plastered on my face for around 24 hrs straight – until they announced that the final step for the top 6 was a shootout in Intramuros with the theme “10 Reasons To Love The Walled City”.The top 6 was announced early last week and the shootout was held last weekend. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my husband and I had limited time to shoot. I was honestly disappointed with myself but am utterly grateful that I was given a chance to be part of this wonderful experience. My fellow top sixers are brilliant photographers and I couldn’t be happier to have shared this experience with them. I am truly a fan of every single one of them.

Now that the pitches and the shootout are done and the mock layouts are up at the DPP website, I would like to share with you my pitch. May we all have the passion and strength to follow and fulfill our dreams. Happy travels everyone! 🙂

KLM “On Assignment: Europe” Pitch

I DARE TO DREAM
All my life I have been consumed with the need to travel. I’ve dreamt of roaming the world and seeing places people could only dream of. I’ve dreamt of capturing those places through my knowledge in photography. I do not dream of getting awards for my pictures nor to be known as one of the best. All I want is to explore towns I’ve only seen in photographs and capturing them in the best way possible through my own style.

Never in my life did I ever think that at 30 years old I’d be able to say I’ve been to 33 countries. My goal of visiting 156 countries out of 195 or 80% of the world (I want to visit every country if possible but safety will always come first) is slowly becoming clearer and more attainable only because I dared to dream.

I DARE TO MOVE
I was born to move. My dreams forced me to move. I’ve traveled on my own. I’ve traveled with my husband. I’ve traveled with my friends. I’ve traveled with an unreasonable amount of photography gear and I’ve traveled with almost none. I’ve taken shots I’m proud of and I’ve taken snapshots. But I move. I’d give up almost everything just to move. No matter what the reason, no matter what the cost, I will move.

I DARE TO DISCOVER
Every discovery – every new place, culture & person that I come across rekindle my desire to visit and revisit all the magnificent cities around our world. It doesn’t matter if I’ve previously been to a certain location because I know that no two pictures are alike and no two experiences will ever be the same. And with every trip, every shot and every discovery I know that I will be forever changed.


Welcoming The Night (Lucerne, Switzerland)


A Little Bit Of Spice (Taipei, Taiwan)


Say A Little Prayer (Fatima, Portugal)


Morning Stroll (Taipei, Taiwan)


All You Need Is Love (Koln, Germany)


Beautiful Inside And Out (Saint Petersburg, Russia)


Staying Afloat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)


Once Upon A Time (Taipei, Taiwan)


The Hustle And Bustle (New York City, USA)


Handmade (Siem Reap, Cambodia)


Proud And Loud (Moscow, Russia)

INSPIRATION:


On Top Of The World (Switzerland)

I remember standing in this spot, taking in the majestic sights of the Jungfraujoch and thinking “After all those years of dreaming, waiting and wanting…I made it. I’m finally here”. I am merely a visitor in this planet and God gave this much. Why waste it? Why waste time? This was the moment that I realized that no matter how ridiculous my dreams to travel may be to other people, it is who I am. I know that if I stop, I will never be able to see all this beauty and everything else this earth and this life has to offer. The world is our playground – go and discover.

On The Move Again

So here I am again waiting to go to the train station to discover another, hopefully wonderful place 🙂 Leaving Russia is a bit of a relief due to unfavorable circumstances which I will talk about when I have more time. It’s not very often that I am more than ready to leave a city that I just recently discovered nor is it common for me to feel defeated and slightly cheated.

So here we go again, hopefully we will still be greeted by sunshine and more importantly I’m hoping that more pleasant events will welcome us at our next destination.

20110525-010114.jpg

Air Asia/Air Asia X

AIR ASIA, The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline

http://www.airasia.com

This low-cost, no frills Malaysian airline whose operations started in 1996 was the first budget airline in Asia. This airline’s international flights started in 2003 started flying to the Philippines (Clark) in 2005.

Since 2007, I have flown with Air Asia 3x. And I am happy to say that the quality of the airline and it’s service has improved since then.

July 2007 – Clark, Philippines-Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

In 2007, only 2 commercial airlines flew out of the Diosdado Macapagal Airport at Clark Field, Pampanga – Air Asia and Tiger Airways. Despite the distance of the airport from Manila, we tried both airlines due to the very cheap costs of their tickets. During our first flight with Air Asia, I was sorely disappointed simply because it really was a budget airline- no food, no tv and unassigned seats. The seats weren’t comfortable and the planes seemed old.

February 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Siem Reap, Cambodia

Fast forward to 2 1/2 years later, along with a couple more budget airlines (including Cebu Pacific and Spirit of Manila), Air Asia still flies from Clark. We had to stop at Kuala Lumpur for one night for each leg of our trip (to Cambodia and back to the Philippines) since Air Asia only flies to KL and Kota Kinabalu from Clark. Air Asia’s main hub can be found at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), more specifically at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). To our surprise the LCCT wasn’t the normal budget airport like the one in Clark and Singapore, etc. The terminal was big and literally hordes of people fly in and out all day. It felt like a regular yet slightly older airport to me. If you arrive with a couple of other flights, it will take you at least 30 minutes-1 hour just to get through immigration.

For the first part of our trip we looked for an airport hotel that where we could stay the night. Our options were limited to the Concorde Inn at the KLIA or the Tune Hotel at the LCCT (Air Aisa’s Budget Hotel). Technically even though the LCCT is located at the KL International Airport it would have been expensive for us just to take a taxi to the Concorde Inn and apparently a good 20 minutes just to get to the Main Airport. So we ended up staying at the Tune Hotel (there’s a free shuttle from the LCCT to the hotel or you could also take a bus for 1 myr). Making a booking at this hotel was similar to booking a ticket in Air Asia- the price for the room itself was pretty cheap but we had to pay for other necessities such as towels, air-conditioning, etc. We’ve stayed in cramped rooms before but I was utterly disappointed with this hotel- in my personal opinion this was the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Again, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the cleanliness of a hotel room and bathroom.; size – not so much as long as I could still walk around the room. Our room was SMALL – think of a small room and make it smaller, that’s how small it was. Our only piece of luggage could hardly fit the room. Imagine a bed in the middle of the room, headboard leaning on one wall and the 3 other walls just 2 ft from the sides of the bed. The bathroom on the other hand was fairly clean and was literally almost half the size of the room. But what totally ruined it for me were the ants – red ants everywhere. Fortunately, we didn’t have to stay long and had to leave the hotel at 5 am the next day.

After flying back from Cambodia we had to spend another night in Kuala Lumpur. We decided to stay in the city to see the Petronas Towers. We stayed at the Piccolo Hotel which was located at Bukit Bintang. It was a pretty good hotel. The hotel’s location was right in the middle of the shopping area. To get to the hotel we took the Star Shuttle which was a bus ride to one of the shuttles’ hub near the city center and a car ride from there which brought us directly to the hotel. Our flight was early in the morning once again so we took an expensive taxi ride back to LCCT (the concierge told us that there were no buses that leave very early for the airport; we found out later on that he was wrong). Our flight back was pretty decent and I was very happy with the way Air Asia had improved.

May 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Melbourne, Australia

AIR ASIA (Clark-Kuala Lumpur; Kuala Lumpur-Clark)

Just like our Clark-Cambodia trip, we had to stop in Kuala Lumpur for one night to and from Clark. We didn’t want all the hassles of our last KL trip so we really researched all our options (with a baby in tow we had to make sure that we stayed in a clean place that was accessible). This is why we ended up staying at Hotel@Sentral. We took the KL Rapid (Bus to the nearby train station and then a train to the KL Central Station – around 12 myr per way). I wouldn’t recommend this since it’s cheaper to take the Skybus. Ideally we could’ve walked to our hotel but since it was pouring when we arrived, we had to take a taxi for 10 myr for a 2 minute ride (Malaysian taxi drivers are the worst! They don’t use their meters and would always overcharge tourists). To go to the airport the following day, we walked to the station and took the SkyBus (Air Asia Shuttle – 9 myr one way) to the LCCT. When we got back from Melbourne, we stayed at the same hotel but we took the SkyBus to/from the Central Station instead (17 myr round trip). We loved the hotel due to it’s proximity to the Central Station (Bus & Trains) and the KL Monorail.  The flights were decent and I have nothing to complain about but because my 22 month old son didn’t have his own seat, it was pretty cramped. Also, checking in for Asia flights at the LCCT was a breeze.

AIR ASIA X (KL-Melbourne; Melbourne-KL)

I was very apprehensive about taking a long haul flight using Air Asia. First it takes 8 hrs to get to Melbourne from KL which is the same number of hours from Manila to Melbourne (it takes an additional 4 hours from Clark to KL). Secondly, based on my previous experiences unless you pay for the hot seats, the seats had no legroom whatsoever. Lastly, I would be carrying my little boy the whole time. But I was ECSTATIC when I found out that AIR ASIA X was really a new, big and clean plane. The seats were comfortable and had more than enough legroom (much much roomier than Philippine Airlines).  They still didn’t have free movies and stuff but it was fine. We did not upgrade seats even though I really wanted to since we didn’t want to pay more than we needed to. Our flight back to KL from Melbourne wasn’t a full flight so my son was able to score his own seat. In other words, I was very happy with Air Asia X. They really exceeded my expectations. The only negative thing I can think of was the long line at the check-in counter (at the Kuala Lumpur LCCT and even at the Melbourne Tullarmine Airport).

MEALS – We paid for our meals at the same time we booked our tickets. Apparently Air Asia sometimes runs out of food during the flight so unless you want to take that chance, you must pre-book your meals. For our Asia flights we didn’t book meals anymore since the hours were shorter.

LUGGAGE– The standard luggage allowance is 15kg per person which you need to pay for. Children without seats do not have luggage allowances similar to those given by bigger commercial airlines. You can upgrade your luggage allowance to 20kg, 25kg and 30kg.  We had to upgrade one of our bags for our Clark/Kl/Melbourne trip to make room for my son’s stuff. If your name and the names of your companions are in one ticket/itinerary only, you can share the luggage allowance. It’s better to pay for an upgrade beforehand versus finding out your bag is overweight at the check-in counter because the fees are quite high.

SkyBus– You can buy tickets for the SkyBus during the flight.

DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL Airport – Park and Fly (open parking lot) costs 90 pesos per night. There are also shuttles to/from Manila.

Overall, I would definitely fly Air Asia again; hopefully not in the very near future because it’s tiring having to pass by Kuala Lumpur every single time. I hope that sooner or later there will be direct Air Asia flights from Clark other than Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. But nevertheless I’m still looking forward to our future trips via Air Asia.