Jun 29, 2011

5 Most Useful/Useless Items In Our Backpacks

Packing for this trip was a challenge, mostly due to the fact that we were only carrying 2 main backpacks for all of our things for 2 adults and 2 preschoolers, along with a day bag each.  It was tricky to be able to separate the ‘must have’ from the ‘nice to have’ or ‘just in case’.  Five months and six countries on, how did we do with our initial packing choices? Aside from the obvious clothing, medical kits, etc,

Jun 24, 2011

Lying Low in the Cameron Highlands

As if our travels this past 5 months haven’t been exciting enough—exploring ancient ruins, riding ostriches,sledding down sand dunes, alpine coasting, hiking into caves, interacting with elephants and leopards—we took things in a bit of a different direction.  Our latest escapade saw Jim try life as a single parent of our 2 pre-schoolers for a week while I got a first-hand look at the Malaysian public hospital system.  Definitely not your typical adventure.

Jun 13, 2011

Philippines, That's A Wrap

The Philippines got included on our itinerary all because we got an amazing seat sale on the tickets.  While Jim and I were both curious about the country, we knew little about it until shortly before we arrived—which was nothing new for us!  But like Vietnam, we soon discovered that it’s a big country; a conglomeration of islands in fact—7101 according to Lonely Planet!  And it soon became very confusing to us to try to organise our itinerary for our mere 20 days here.  Most tourists to the Philippines usually end up at either the island of Boracay, Cebu or Palawan and we probably would have too were it not for logistics and budget considerations and also that it was typhoon season.   We thought we’d do the ‘simplest’ thing—to spend our time traveling only in the north of Luzon Island, where we’d arrive.  And it turned out to be a great plan, despite the often long and tough traveling that we had to do. Northern Luzon, we discovered, has so much to offer:  numerous World Heritage Sites, the Cordillera Mountains, beautiful beaches, and lots of history to experience.  We are really glad that we had a chance to taste this region of the Philippines.  So in our 20 days here, this is our list of:

Jun 11, 2011

We Survived SEA's Most Populated City, Manila

To say that we were wary about visiting Manila is a huge understatement—we avoided it when we first arrived, then hummed and haa-ad about it the entire time we’ve been in the Philippines.  To make matters worse, no matter who we spoke to about the place, be it other backpackers or locals, no one had a good thing to say about it.  Nevertheless everyone’s conclusion, including our own, was that we just had to experience it first-hand.  We braced ourselves for the worst and it was probably the best thing we could have done as when you do, then whatever does happen usually will pale in comparison.  

San Miguel by the Bay, Pasay, looking towards Manila

Jun 8, 2011

Turquoise Waters, Coconut Palms & Orange Sunsets: Pagudpud

The thing about independent traveling is that it can be hard work; it actually takes a lot of effort to organise your own transportation, accommodation, and even figuring out where and what you are going to eat.  Add young children into this scenario, and the effort level multiplies. Whenever you move/change locations, it means having to figure this out all over again.  For the past 7 weeks since leaving Sihanoukville in Cambodia, we haven’t been in one place longer than 3 days, so we were due to find a nice place somewhere here in the Philippines to ‘have a holiday’ from our supposed holiday.  And we did, in Pagudpud.

Jun 6, 2011

Vigan, A Slice of Spain

According to UNESCO’s website, there are currently 911 listed ‘natural and cultural global sites of importance and distinction’.  We’ve had the privilege to have visited quite a few in our travels, both past and present, and after leaving Bontoc, we set our sights on another in the Philippines:  Vigan.  However after we finally arrived, we had to reassure ourselves that the pro’s really outweighed the cons that went along with visiting a World Heritage Site.

Jun 4, 2011

The Banawe Rice Paddies: NOT A Walk In The Park!

Our trip in the Philippines keeps getting crazier and more challenging than we’d ever imagined nor intended.  Along with the long bus rides, crazy rough mountainous  roads and unexpected hikes, we upped the ante today and again surprised ourselves with the outcome of the day.  Destination:  the UNESCO World-Heritage listed Banawe Rice Terraces.

Jun 2, 2011

Misty Mountains, Treacherous Roads and Hanging Coffins: Sagada

Hanging Coffins
It’s typhoon season in the Philippines right now (which explains the cheap ticket we got!) and when we were in Baguio City on Wednesday, we learned that Typhoon Cedeng was headed our way on Friday and had the potential to be larger and more devastating than the one in September 2009.  As we were headed to Sagada anyway, we decided that we should leave sooner rather than later to try to stay ahead of the inclement weather.  But no one warned us about what sort of trip we were exactly in for!