Alternative places to stay when traveling

Alternative places to stay when traveling

I used to think traveling to different places is expensive because you have to stay in posh places like hotels.

Well, some people really do travel and stay in hotels all day. I was lucky to stay at 5 star hotels on various occasions. This was at Shangri La Hotel in Edsa.


shangri la hotel
 

Read this if you want to stay in posh places for free.

Well, now that more and more people are traveling, it has now become apparent that there are other alternative places to stay when you want to take a break from your daily life to meet people and see other places.

Alternative places to stay can be hostels which is cheaper than a hotel and suitable for young people because of the vibe and the connections.. For those who have a large network, or family, you can stay in your relative’s homes which can be free as long as you wash the dishes or help around the house… in my case, I try to cook or buy people food instead.


cebu with chuchay
 

You can sleep in family homes, but you can also sleep at other people’s homes too.. it will be more interesting if the house has a character. So far, I have stayed in our old traditional Filipino house in Antique, a farm house in Laos, an art house owned by a movie director in Palawan, I’ve stayed at nipa huts of friends, and I’ve stayed in a Tribe community in South Cotabato..

 



If you don’t have a large family clan, but belong to an organization or community, you can try to sleep in the org’s headquarters in the area where you are in. I was able to stay in Tagaytay for a few months because of an international community called Focolare. In Nepal, I stayed in a school that has a children’s home run by the Ananda Marga organization.. in return, I took care of the kids, became a temporary computer teacher, treat them food that they don’t get to eat always, like spaghetti.

Now, those houses are still normal resting places. Let’s explore a bit more of the unconventional places to check out when looking for places to stay while traveling.

You might want to consider these places to add more interesting travel experiences.

Have you tried sleeping in a convent? I did. During retreats, we get to stay in religious places.. I am also curious about temples and other religious places though.. might try to stay in one out of curiousity.

How about sleeping in a tent? I’ve tried that when we were in Omkoi, Thailand last 2011 while doing volunteer work in the far flung area.


tent


Ok, if there’s no tent, sleeping under the stars is an option too.. yep, tried it one time with a french friend in Bohol in Alona beach, Panglao… we just put our towels in the sand and slept outside ignoring the posh establishments.


I also tried sleeping in moving vehicles, a bus, or train.. this saves time and money because you are moving while sleeping.


sleep

Another temporary refuge is the airport or bus terminal.. Get a bench, make your backpack your pillow, and catch a few hours of sleep. I tried that in Malaysia, then I overslept and my plane went ahead of me.

Hammocks are nice too. I haven’t tried this yet but who knows what the future holds.

But after all these traveling, you know what I realized? A 5 star hotel can still feel like an any star hotel.. And a home can feel like the poshest hotel that gives you all the positive feelings..

It really doesn’t matter where you stay or where you rest your head at night.. what matters is the positive vibe that the place is giving.. Here’s a list of my favorite places to stay whenever I travel.

Were you able to travel and stay in alternative places other than the usual hotel/hostel/home? I’d like to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

Move to Paradise – a must read for city dwellers

Move to Paradise – a must read for city dwellers

I have lived in different far flung rural areas in the Palawan, Bohol, Antique, Laguna in the Philippines. Aside from that I also lived 5 months in rural Kolkata in India, and a few weeks in Bhakatapur and Heutuda in Nepal, and a few days in far flung rural Laos.

I don’t just travel and take pictures.. I try to partake in the way of life and hopefully get a lesson or two to share to people. Some of you, especially those who lived in the city, would want to make the move to rural life because of – Clean air, fresh food, peaceful life, low cost of living.

Paradise right?

These are carabaos staring at me when I visited a small island in Laos:

rp_cows2-1024x768.jpg


Stop the music playing in your head. Can I burst your bubble this early?

Here’s the harsh truth – You might be in the honeymoon stage of travel where people usually see the brighter side of things. Try to live in rural areas for a few months to confirm if it’s indeed paradise coz I don’t want you to start cursing me silently by promoting rural living yet when you tried it yourself, you just can’t fit in.

If you ask me personally, it is indeed great. Benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Usually, people paint dreamy descriptions of rural living, like what I said:

Clean air, fresh food, peaceful life, low cost of living. Paradise right?

This was in a lesser touristy area in Palawan.

palawan
 


But those in marketing with properties to sell, vacation spots to promote, will never tell you the negative side of things. But I’m not biased, take that to your advantage. Now, if you’re really keen on living the rural life, here’s a few things that you need to take note.


Sometimes, rural means, far from everything.
Like malls, schools, stores, and hospitals.. So when there is an emergency and hospital is like 2 hours away and you don’t have your own vehicle, well, good luck. On the brighter side, when the air is clean and you eat veggies regularly, there’s less probability you’ll get an emergency concerning your health. And what is there to spend when you don’t see anything to spend on? And that’s how you accumulate wealth dears :D.. don’t forget to share it with the less fortunate ok?


There’s abundant greens which means less pollution.
It also means less transportation to and from your area. So if you don’t own a private vehicle, your mobility is compromise. Example, I have to make sure I take the 5pm jeep going home from the town because it’s the last trip. If you can’t make it, you’ll have to wait for the trip next morning. Or hire a tricycle (because there’s no taxi) but you’ll have to pay more than the jeepney fare.
Aside from that, because all rice fields looks the same, you need to make sure you go down on the right rice field.. coz once you go down and you realize it’s not the way to your home.. then you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.. pray that there is no mumu.

 

antique road less traveled

 


If you want to live in rural areas, you will need to empathize with traditions. Your old folk’s tradition believes there exists such monsters, aswang, kulam, etc. Ask them if they saw an aswang and they will say not yet.. If you talk back, you’ll be considered an ingrate so shut up ka na lang. I was actually joking with a friend from the city whom I told, we don’t usually go to trial courts in the far flung province, but people there use kulam or witchcraft on their enemies.

Limited internet signal, and sometimes limited electricity too. The irony of living with abundant natural resources is limited technology. Bad move for digital nomads who needs internet like they need coffee to live here, unless they are writers or other creative who needs offline moments to produce work output. Oh I have to correct myself on abundant natural resources – because you know, sometimes I need to burst your bubble that even in Paradise called Bohol and Palawan, there’s limited water too. Are you pouting already? Oh yeah locals only experience that so no need to worry if you’re a tourist.

This was in the border of Thailand and Myanmar when we did some ICT training:

stoop low. aim high. grasya in Burma
 


There’s a possibility of cultural clashes and misunderstanding. Many people think that only foreigners and locals have clashes in ways of living. But actually city dwellers and rural folks, even if they are both of the same nationality, still have misunderstandings. The difference in dialect from each province and ways of living is a point of confusion from each side. If you’re not speaking the dialect of the local folks, it is understandable to get a bit paranoid that they are talking about you even if you are in front of them.
Another example of misunderstanding – city dwellers think these rural people are lazy for always chitchatting and spending time doing nothing.

They don’t actually see the behind the scenes of how the muscles of these people are developed by tilling the land all day so we can have unlimited rice. Unless of course if you are a haciendera/haciendero where you can sleep all day and still get unlimited rice and veggies, if you are, ask me how to make your life productive. :D

On the other hand, rural people think city dwellers are also lazy for always traveling and staring at the computer.. that’s my personal experience btw. They can’t comprehend that I work with different clients in different countries while I’m just in my bedroom “staring at the computer”… Struggle is real.

On the plus side, there’s a sense of community when you live in rural areas. It’s difficult to have that in the city where you don’t even know your neighbor. People in far flung areas know almost everyone living in the area and almost everyone is related to each other. So fiestas and reunions are interesting activities. Imagine being introduced to your third cousin’s uncle’s mother from another grandfather.

Also when there’s trouble, there’s a big probability you will get a helping hand.. sometimes for free too.. just don’t be a bitch to always ask for help. This also goes when the community sense that you have money, be careful not to let them look at you with $$ in your eyes or you’ll encourage dependency. I remember one time, a big healthy person from a rural area asking me, a frail small skinny lady for donation. See the difference?

Be careful though coz since it’s a community, when you get into an argument with a member of the community, you have the whole community against you.

This picture was taken while we were traveling in Myanmar:

grasya in motorcycle
 


Feel my frustration? Thank you ^_^… I just want you to know both sides of the coin dear, I’m sure you’ll thank me somehow. You’re welcome.

Rural living is bliss to those who are adjusted to the slow yet healthy lifestyle. You can’t have everything but if you’re tired and stressed from the hustle and bustle of the city, then you deserve to escape to the province and let the clean air, fresh veggies, beach, forest heal you.. Be warned that you might want to stay forever..


How Forests Heal People from Nitin Das on Vimeo.

 


Either that or get bored and want to go back to the city again ^_^…

 

Recommended Reads:
http://grasya.com/2014/06/how-to-take-a-bath-using-4-to-5-dippers-of-water/
http://grasya.com/2016/08/8393-living-the-local-life-a-personal-insight/
http://grasya.com/2012/09/fiesta-and-street-dance-parade-in-panglao-bohol/

welcome

 

Fiesta in the Philippines

Why do some families afford lavish celebrations during fiesta? Feeding the whole neighbourhood, or town is not an easy task. You have to involve the whole family (and extended family) on the expenses and preparation for the celebration, just to entertain and feed people, some of them you don’t even know..

Apparently, that is the beauty of these kinds of festivities.. Every fiesta is named after a Patron Saint of a town.. and it’s a thanksgiving to the guardian Saint of all the good rewards the family has received and it’s a way of sharing the good blessings to everyone too..

This one is in Bohol:



Every time I attend a fiesta celebration in the Philippines, these are my observations:

1. Fiestas are still alive in provinces while not so much celebrated by families in Metro Manila. I think this has something to do with cost of living and safety. It is not really easy to invite strangers to eat in your house in the big city.

2. You will be surprised even seemingly lower income families in provinces can still afford to celebrate fiesta. What is the secret? Some families have a member that is abroad, or have a higher earning income. Also, there goes the low cost of living in the province.. so don’t under estimate a nipa hut..


bahay kubo kahit munti, ang appliances doon ay sarisari

3. Almost all neighbors are related. If you are visiting a fiesta of a relative, you will be introduced to your uncle of the aunt of the grandfather of your dad.. or your 1st cousin of the 2nd wife of your step grandmother…

4. Reunions are a big deal to some villages. I observed even students who are studying in the big city took a long week absence just to participate in beauty pageants in the villages. And families who have migrated to other places go back and look for traditional food that they have dearly missed.

5. Every fiesta, several pigs and chickens went to heaven.. I said a little prayer for them :D. This is a picture of a roasted pig. For vegetarians, this is not a good sight; for Muslims, they can’t even imagine eating this, but for meat lovers, this is Heaven.


roasted pig

6. New to Fiestas in the Philippines? The trick here is to fast a day before Fiesta, then eat a little bit of everything in every house.. Rest assure that you won’t need to eat til next day.


fiesta

It’s not everyday you get to celebrate fiesta, after the food has gone, it’s back to diet mode of tuyo and kamatis (fried fish and tomatoes) again… it’s time to work hard and be frugal, so there is something to spend in next years celebration. So what do you like about fiestas? Do you also celebrate them too?

Here’s a fond memory of Fiesta in Panglao, Bohol when I lived there last 2012:



Here are related articles I wrote about Fiesta in the Philippines
http://grasya.com/2012/09/fiesta-and-street-dance-parade-in-panglao-bohol/
http://grasya.com/2014/06/a-visit-to-2-islands-in-north-samar-philippines/
http://grasya.com/2014/05/reasons-to-stay-home-reasons-to-travel/

Ordinary activities that are extraordinary to a foreigner in the Philippines

Recently, I’ve changed roles from being the guest traveler to a local homestay host. I love to stay at homes whenever I travel because I like to see the authentic culture of a country, and I want to connect to locals on a personal level and learn their way of living too. It’s more economical yet it’s more authentic.

Surprisingly, even if our place in the Visayas is very remote, there are actually foreigners who wanted to explore the area.. guess they are after the secluded beach and unlimited coconuts ^_^..

For locals like me, everything in our place is like ordinary, even non touristy at all, but for non locals, everything is different and interesting.. and authentic too!

It is my 3rd time to have foreigners visit our place. The 1st one was a Canadian who was my foreign counterpart when I was working in the corporate. The 2nd one was an American couchsurfer who went to stay together with another Ilongga couchsurfer.

Now, the 3rd one, a new friend from HK, is staying longer for a few weeks and will be traveling the Philippines longer.

So what makes our place special that people want to stay? I initially don’t know too coz for me everything is ordinary.. But during observation, I think this is what makes our everyday ordinary activities extra ordinary in their eyes.

1. From rice paddies, coconut fields, mangoes, and other trees – everything is painted green. I remember my Canadian officemate (hi Vlad!) even tasted a rice twig out of curiosity… I’m sure when I go to farms in other countries, I’ll be in awe when I see different fruits too. This is him with 2 of my relatives.


vlad


This is my dad’s beachhouse in the middle of nowhere.


our house in the middle of nowhere


2. Local authentic home cooked food – I’m lucky to have an Aunt that cooks very well… may God bless her with many more strong years ^_^.. all my visitors, local, non-local finds her cooking great too! And the most interesting part is she cooks it traditionally using charcoal, and she teaches visitors how to cook using it too! My friend from HK, an aviation graduate from the US, now knows how to bake a cake using wood charcoal, well done Enoch ^_^.. I will not be surprised if next time, you’ll be climbing coconut trees! ;D
So yep, you can bake a cake without an oven… I actually learned this in Nepal but I replaced sand with water instead, big thanks to Didi Radhika for sharing her skill to me ^_^


chocolate cake


3. Trip to the market is an exciting sight seeing tour. I observe the delight in the eyes of my friend when he saw and smelled vinegar and cooking oil in the sari sari store for the first time.. And in the wet market, we even took a picture of the vendors like they, fishes, veggies, snails are celebrities.


market tour


4. Jeeps and tricycles – even nonlocal friends enjoy being on top of a jeepney in this province, although yeah, I’m thinking what’s wrong with them.. I’m sure my visitors are thinking what’s wrong with me for being a killjoy


5. Nipa huts and secluded beaches – Me and my aunt went to Bohol and stayed in a farm there, she was actually surprised that the farm in the middle of nowhere have foreign visitors and they are staying in Nipa huts.. that is because for foreigners, Nipa hut is very different from a regular house.

So you know what is ordinary in our eyes is exciting for non locals.. So finally I have enlisted my hidden paradise for homestay and see how it will go.

You can do this too in your own homes and be a local tour guide or homestay host.. If you want me to feature your home as a homestay, feel free to contact me too.Let us invite visitors in our houses and build friendships all over the world. ^_^

 

Travel Frugal Tips Series on the Road #15

Travel Frugal Tips Series on the Road #15

Once upon a time, I never thought people can reach me in the middle of nowhere in that small island called Panglao, Bohol.

Then Enrique came… We hang out a bit, cooked together, ate sea urchin, chitchat about each other’s lives..  and then he moved on and traveled to Boracay and other parts of the Philippines :D.. What, you think there’s a special story behind this??

Well, I get jealous sometimes, because he travels around Europe regularly just like going to 711.. while I’m stuck in South East Asia :(.. And I dont get it when he says he gets envious of my travels in Asia, holler! Cost of living here is way cheaper than there duh..

But when we briefly traveled together, I do observe he is indeed frugal.. we never went to posh restaurant and ate in a carinderia instead.. I’m not surprised though, coz I traveled with other European friends and they have the same habits.

Enrique lives in Austria, but is Filipino by blood.. Read on his thoughts and contributions on Travel Frugal Tip Series:

1. Can you tell me something about yourself? Occupation/hobbies/etc

I’m really not used to talking about myself. It is like looking at the mirror and saying how good looking I am. haha. Anyway, I’m currently working in a museum and studying Romance Philology, major in Spanish and minor in Portuguese. My friends would often describe me as a busy person because if I’m not working, then I’m taking photos or simply out of Vienna. I got my inspiration to write again from my “Bohol savior”, Grace, who encouraged me to share my travel experiences to everyone. It did pay off and so, here’s the result of her persuasion: www.hardcoreviajero.com

2. How many countries have you been so far? Which is your favorite and why?

I’ve visited 16 so far and still counting. Although these countries are different from each otther, they are all equally beautiful. Of all these places, I would have to say that Spain, especially Andalusia, is on top of my list. It is most likely because of the language and the feel-at-home sensation it gives me everytime I set foot in Southern Spain. Not only because of its spectacular sights that I appreciate the region for but also for the warmth of the locals, the food, the weather and the list could go on and on. Getting hosted or ‘adopted’ by different families in Andalusia and acting like a local have made my stay even more worthwhile. More than anything else, it is always the cultural experience that counts. Andalusia simply reminds me of home away from home.

3. How do you fund your travels?

Money is never an issue for me nor a hindrance to visit other places. I fund my travels the ‘traditional way’, meaning that I still keep a piggy bank and save every single cent that comes out of my wallet. As a budget traveler, I tend to search for the cheapest offer there could be or sometimes, I hitch a ride with somebody. Sometimes, I even travel with no money at all just like what I did in Prague when I only had 20 € in my pocket.

4. What are your plans in the future?

My plan is to travel until I get old because the world has so much to offer for curious people like me and I’d like to satisfy that curiosity one day. There’s nothing more fulfulling than to see places and learn new things from different people of other cultures. Life is a continuous journey of new discoveries and the world is not so small after all. By the way, did I mention that I would also like to work?

5. How can you make the world a better place?

Changing the world would have to start with oneself. One reason I’m traveling is to widen my knowledge of other cultures and in return, I could share a piece of my identity to the people I meet along the way. By that, I simply mean that we should start communicating and stop making prejudices towards others and only then we could make a world a better place.

6. Lastly, any frugal travel tips you want to share?

The problem with being on a holiday is that we sometimes tend to splurge money on food, souvenirs and other stuff but I’ve learned so much from Couchsurfing. Thanks to my guests, I’ve been able to enjoy my holidays without having to leave Vienna. But whenever it’s my turn to travel, I also make sure that my hosts take part in my vacation. The best way to save money is simply by exploring the city by foot, plus you’ll get to see more sights. Mingle with the locals– who knows, they might invite you for a free meal:).( I met a couple in Spain and they invited me for dinner:)) As for eating, I would recommend going to small quality and affordable restaurants to try their local cuisine or better yet, go to the supermarket. I also cook for my host whenever I couchsurf. Sightseeing can also be done without having to spend much. Bring a Student-ID (if you are one) to get discounts or check the schedule of museums if they offer free entrance for everyone. Getting discount cards can also be of great help. To sum it up, though it’s very tempting, don’t spend money more than you should.