How to plan a trip?

People always ask me how do you start planning your trip. How do you search a good hotel, a nice restaurant that won’t burn your pocket and where to find a good charming little bar to unwind your day with locals?

Well, here are my answers to some of your questions. Continue reading

Exploring Europe

Traveling Pooh is now living and busy exploring Europe. More articles regarding traveling tips in Europe will come soon. Stay tuned. :)

Sorry for my snail speed blog update. Backlog from my 2-months India and 3-weeks Nepal, 3-months Europe backpacking stories will be up soon. Fingers crossed!!! :)

For the time being, if you wish to know where I have been in Europe, check out my Facebook fanpage. I uploaded some photos there.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Traveling-Pooh/133650976693032

Also I posted some reviews for some of the hotels I stayed and restaurants I visited in Europe at tripadvisor.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/members-reviews/PoohlingE

In a quest to find “The Real Beach” in El Nido

My quest to find the real beach in El Nido is not an easy task to me. I set off from Sabang on an early morning with a bad gastric problem. The boat “Banca” I was supposed to take and take off at 7.30am, departed late at 8am. It wasn’t a calm day as it was pretty windy and the waves were quite strong. So the captain told us, the journey was going to take more than 7 hours instead of the estimated 6 hours. Oh well, it was not going to make any difference to me as I still felt sick when I was on the boat. After around 1 hour sailing in the sea, suddenly the engine of the banca gave up. While the captain was busy repairing the faulty engine, he cut his index finger and it was  a really bad cut. It looked like it was going to fall off any time. So we got to go back to Sabang and our travel agent decided to charter a van to bring us to El Nido. It was 1500 pesos per person, cheaper than the Banca ride (2000 pesos) and the journey would take around 6 hours ( less 1 hour, that is a good news to me!). So there we went on a van to El Nido. And it was indeed a good choice for us as when we arrived in El Nido, we found out that a Banca that was bound to sail to Coron from El Nido sank due to the strong waves at the sea that day and all the passengers (all foreign travelers) of the ship lost their luggage but none was hurt as all were rescued (Good news came 1 day later, when all the passengers’ luggage were retrieved by the marine but one traveler lost  nearly 2k of Euros in his backpack and everybody was guessing who took the money…this is another long and interesting story.).

Back to El Nido…..

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Sabang a quiet fishing village in Palawan, Philippines

Sabang is a quiet and small fishing village that is alive during daytime when a lot of tourists coming from Puerto Princesa and going for the famed half-day Underground River tour. Underground River is a navigable river deep into and under the lime stone cliffs. Bats and some species of birds are the permanent residents inside the cave. For normal tour which takes around 2 to 3 hours, tourists are only allowed to go for the first 1.5 km, additional fee required for further venture into the cave. You can pay 200 pesos for a banca trip (400 pesos for a return trip) to the mouth of the river and pay the park entry fee of 175 pesos. Or you can hike for 2 hours (around 5 km distance) and pass the monkey trail before reaching the river mouth. Make sure to obtain the park entry permit at the pier before entering the park. One or 2 days stay in Sabang should be enough for you to explore the area.

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

Chinese cemetery in Manila should be included in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. It certainly gives a wow factor to any visitor. This is not due to any eerie or horror factor but the ultimate luxury. Imagine a tomb, well, I should say a dead person house and some can even be considered as mansion, is furnished with flushing toilet, kitchen, garden and even an upstairs balcony! Visiting the Chinese Cemetery in Manila is like visiting a wealthy Chinese neighbourhood. The whole Chinese Cemetery is so well taken care of, just like any residential neighbourhood. There are a few Chinese cemeteries in Manila. One of the oldest and the one that I visited is at La Loma Cemetery. The nearest LRT station to get here is LRT-1 Abad Santos Station. Alight at Abad Santos LRT station, then turn to your left, head to the southeast direction and walk for around 300m, you will reach the South Gate of Chinese Cemetery. If you are tired of walking, you can take a tricycle ride from the LRT station for around 30 pesos. There is no entrance fee and official tour guide in the Chinese Cemetery. However, hiring a guide (1 of those caretakers working in the cemetery) will give you an insight to some luxury, important tombs of some influential Chinese families in Manila. A guide fee is around 500 to 800 pesos for 1 to 2 hour walking tour and you can bargain the price with the guide. The front row is the most expensive one, easily cost > 50 million pesos, and the money paid is just for the land, not including construction fee!!! Bear in mind, it is not a permanent resting place. It is just good for 25-year lease. After that, you need to renew the lease or exhume the body and move to another place! After touring this place and comparing the life of the poor and low income people of Manila who are living in a slum, you can definitely say the dead here have better homes than some of the living. Continue reading

Mabuhay to Manila

My first impression of Manila: dirty, polluted and crowded. Street children are running and begging around and even the whole family lives on the street. It reminds me of Phnom Penh. But if you are out of Manila city, and in the suburbs, you will feel like you are in a  US border town or a latin-american town due to the rough neighbourhood, Spanish & English road signs, sign boards and shop names. You can even find the familiar US big store names here like Home Depot. Not to forget the various fastfood and restaurant chains like Jollibee (the Filipino version of McDonald’s), Chow King (Chinese fast food), Yellow Cab Pizza Co., KFC, Pizza Hut, Pancake House, Aristocrat, Max’s Restaurant, Mangan, Mang Inasal, etc that are abundant in the neighbourhood around and inside the Manila City. This just looks so much similar to a US neighbourhood minus the street kids and families. Is this a fast food nation like Americans? Good thing though: most Filipinos are of average size and skinny. Not like the contestants of the Biggest Losers US/Australia or Asia.

Manila came from the word “May nila” which is a kind of water plant with star shaped flowers clustered along the riverbank and it is pronouned as “Maynila” in Tagalog too. Visiting the famous tourist attractions in Manila will just take 1 or 2 days. In the morning,  you can visit the Manila trademark, Rizal Park which has a few themed gardens and attractions inside this park like Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Rizal’s Martrydom which includes Rizal’s  execution site and so on. The central lagoon of Rizal Park is often the location of big festive celebrations where there will be stages built at this area. Now every Friday and Sunday evening, there will be free concerts, dance and cultural performances  at the central lagoon stage from Dec 2010 to sometimes in Jan 2011.

The famous park in the heart of Manila city, Rizal Park. The center picture is Rizal Monument.

Rizal and other Filipino patriots’ execution sites.

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One Fine Day in Christchurch

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and is considered to be the most English city among all the cities in New Zealand. But to me, it is more like an English town rather than a city. It doesn’t have any of the bustling, noisy, big city feel. It is definitely a garden city.

Christchurch is also getting to embrace a more multicultural nature of an urban city due to the diverse immigration. You can find many Japanese and Korean young people and students here. They like to take an ESL course in any English language schools here while holidaying in New Zealand.

A lot of the attractions in Christchurch city are within walking distance. Here I am going to tell you how to spend one fine day visiting those attractions on your feet. A green way while on holiday and burning off all the fat that you put on while feasting on your vacation ;)

Let’s start from the Christchurch Cathedral at Cathedral Square in the morning. When I think of Christchurch, the first thing that comes to my mind is the chalice at the Cathedral Square. It is a huge beautiful blue and silver color piece of art. The Christchurch Cathedral, besides being the most visited church in this country, remains the heart and soul of this city. Christchurch people will come here to celebrate and grieve in one of the 14 weekly services. The English Victorian Gothic church architecture attracts many visitors daily. Visitors can take an audio tour or join a free guided tour.

Chalice at Cathedral Square

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