Reasons I love and hate Boracay, Philippines

Reasons I love and hate Boracay, Philippines

Boracay was termed as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The first class island in the Philippines has captured the hearts of many specially the rich and famous who escape to this paradise during holidays and weekends.


Boracay Philippines


I lost count of how many times I’ve passed in this place. Not because I’m rich, but its near my hidden paradise in Antique and whenever I travel, the ferry always pass by near this island.

I’ve lost count of how many times I went to this island too. Sometimes I went with family, sometimes with friends, sometimes just by myself. Spending a long bit of time in this island is enough to know the real issues behind the island’s beauty. That is why I love and hate that beautiful island.

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I love the first class island in the Philippines because although a bit expensive, you can still travel in Boracay island on a budget of $23 day, I’m sure locals can travel less than that. You can still find affordable accommodations by the beach if you do your research well.

However, I hate it because $23/day still feels like a ripped off specially when I travelled and lived in equally beautiful places in other countries for $10/day.


firedancers in Boracay, Philippines


I love Boracay because of the community and the beautiful/handsome people you can see while strolling. The people for me are an added tourist attraction already.

I hate it because the original settlers, the Ati community, are shunned.. they are the original owners yet these indigenous people have little rights in their own land. Here’s some serious words from my friend Maria Reinita Navarro:


The making of Boracay is a blatant IP social injustice displacing the ATI tribe who lived there since time immemorial… the whole area is their ancestral domain but now the rich and famous took it from the ATI and placed the whole tribe in a 2 hectare village a mere fraction of the roughly 1,000-hectare island where their ancestors once roamed freely…. worst these land grabbers grabbers destroyed the natural resources for commercialism and desecrate the tribe’s sacred areas…

I love Boracay because it is one of the reason why the Philippines is famous.

I hate Boracay because since it’s famous, almost all people want to go there.. During peak season, there’s a joke that if all people will jump at the same time, there’s a possibility it will sink xD..

I love Boracay because it’s like a mini city with lots of choices of activity.. You can go shopping and dine in different restaurants of your choice.

I hate it because buildings are sprouting everywhere.. You escaped the city yet it feels like you’re still in the city.. give the island a chance to breathe will ya?


lobsters


So there goes my reasons. How about you? What do you love and hate about Boracay too? Would love to hear your rants and raves.


i love and hate boracay

How to avoid travel mishaps

How to avoid travel mishaps

This is an update on how to deal with challenging events when you are travelling. I travel solo most of the times and have encountered all the scenarios below.. but it doesn’t mean I won’t travel again despite all those misfortunes.. the world is too beautiful not to see before our mortal time is up and these setbacks should not discourage us from travelling.

At least we know these can happen, so we can all be prepared.

Don’t get caught in the delusion that travellers are always happy and having a fun travelling life.. that will make some of the readers get envious instead of being inspired. Well reality check, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. But some people chose this as a way of life, together with the mishaps that goes with it.

I don’t have the control of your feelings after you read this.. But I do hope it will help you be ready and do necessary steps just in case unfortunate incidents happen to you while travelling:

0. If you arrive in a place that is currently undergoing floods and storms.. I strongly advise you to store lots of food and don’t go out until the storm has subsided. If you feel down because you can’t enjoy the holidays, you can always create ways to have fun indoors. Bored from staying indoors? Join volunteering and aid relief groups, that will give meaning to your holidays.. that’s an extra adventure too. Here’s a video of me and other volunteers trap in a far flung village.. looks exciting ya?




1. If you lost or broke a stuff during travel… learn how not to be too upset about it. I lost a few things during my travels including almost loosing a toenail when I was travelling solo in Mindanao. But while I travel, I have become more and more unattached to stuffs.. I buy inexpensive phones, buy dress in bargain stores.. if I lost them then it doesn’t hurt too much… The downside is some cheap stuff gets easily broken.. Oh what about broken hearts? Wait, I don’t know how to deal with that too. Go ask other experts xD

2. If you get ill while travelling, oh dear, take all measures not to get ill… Get appropriate Hepa shots if you love eating at local shops, rabies shots if you’ll be dealing with crazy dogs while walking around, and mosquito repellents if you want to avoid dengue. Although even if you are traveling in style and being careful, sometimes you really can’t avoid getting sick, so make sure you have enough medicine emergency supplies.. and a doctor or nurse friend on your facebook account just in case you need advise and no one is around to extend a helping hand.. and if you really got ill, please make sure you have travel insurance so you don’t have to pay huge medical bills.

3. And in case you get into an accident, make sure that travel insurance get it’s worth. This is for people with a birthmark on their butt. That’s a way of saying that you’re prone to mishaps.. I don’t have a birthmark on my butt but I’m really prone to misadventures because I’m special. Yeah you can sing – trouble, trouble, trouble.

This makes me think – Is someone voodooing me?


voodoo doll


4. If your ATM card is not working, have backup ATM/Debit/Credit Cards. Better yet, make sure you have enough money ready in your wallet. I really don’t recommend getting a credit card specially if you have an addiction to buying and don’t know how to manage your expenses.. But if one of your ATM is not accepted in a country, then you can try another ATM/Debit/Credit card… if all else fails, make sure you have money on your phone so you can call someone in an emergency. To have a rule of thumb, as much as possible, don’t withdraw your money from an ATM if the country you are in doesn’t have a good reputation to these kinds of transactions.

5. Speaking of money, if you are travelling in Myanmar/Burma, have ready crisp dollar bills.. I’m not sure about the status now but the last time I went, people do not accept dollars that are folded or old..

6. If you encounter harassment on the road.. learn the basics of self defence, or carry self defence tool such as pepper spray. Be sensitive with the culture and don’t go around wearing only a bra and miniskirt in most parts of India and other conservative countries because you might be inviting rape in the eyes of the men.. Good thing I never really experience being harassed to the point of getting raped when I was there, just men looking at the small mammary glands even if I make all the effort to hide it. I’m sure I disappointed them.

7. If your bus or boat gets stranded in the middle of nowhere.. have emergency snacks and water so you can munch on something. This was my smart move when I was travelling solo in Laos. The bus broke down that left us stranded for a very long time… The bus is expected to arrive in Vientiane at early morning and its already lunch time and we’re still on the road! Good thing I brought snacks with me and i was able to take one bite and one gulp every hour.. and was still able to share some to the kid in front of me..


Stranded in Laos


8. If your footwear got broken.. well don’t buy cheap ones specially if you are walking a lot. It happened to me when I was walking along a sleepy posh village in Chiang Mai, Thailand and suddenly, voila! the pretty pink sandals I bought in Hong Kong broke.. and like a stroke of luck (feel the hint of sarcasm?), there was no one else along the road and I don’t know where I am. I walked barefoot for like 10 minutes until I saw a human being. Armed with my basic Thai, I asked for directions on how to go back so I can get another footwear from the house I was staying in. Yeah that’s embarrassing.. it’s okay, they don’t know me there anyway.

9. If you got lost.. make sure you know the number of your hostel/guesthouse/hotel. Buy a local sim so it will be cheaper to call people. Getting lost almost always happen if you are new to a place. It is safe to wander with new found friends but if you’re a true blooded soloista like me sometimes, make sure the place you are exploring is safe. I met a Japanese young lady in Melacca Malaysia almost bursting with tears as she struggle with her English telling me she is lost and don’t even have a map or number of her hotel. It’s a good thing that people in my hostel are very kind to assist her so she can safely go back.

10. If you don’t have clean clothes because there is no time to wash or get changed… at least have the effort to smell good. I have seen lots of travellers wearing the same clothes in 2 or 3 consecutive days because travel schedule is hectic and simply there is no time to wash or change… It’s okay to wear the same clothing but please take pity on your travel companions and make an effort to smell nice.

When I was travelling nonstop from Phonasavan Laos to Chiang Mai Thailand I also wear the same clothes in 2 consecutive days and by the time I was in Non Khai, I was really already filthy.. imagine the horror in my eyes when I boarded a van and it was full of good smelling newly bathe handsome Filipinos!!!

So folks, please be ready when you encounter such mishaps. Currently I’m taking a break from travelling, which means taking a break from collecting misadventures.. so people who love me can breathe..

For those embarking on a new adventure, kindly bookmark this. If you think this won’t happen to you and it did, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. ^_^

10 Travel tips if you are going to El Nido, Palawan

10 Travel tips if you are going to El Nido, Palawan

Beautiful pristine waters, grand rock formations, beautiful people.. El Nido, Palawan is beautiful alright.


palawan best island
And you think to see that beauty is an easy journey? Well not for some. There are still visitors who came unprepared for the challenge of being in this paradise.. Going to El Nido, Palawan may not be an easy tick in your bucket list but once you overcome challenges by preparing yourself on what to expect, then definitely, you will enjoy the best island in the world.



Here’s some tips:

1. ATM is unreliable. Whenever I go to the ATM to access money, it is not working. You might want to load enough cash before coming to El Nido to make sure you enjoy in this paradise, 1000php a day is acceptable if you have activities that you plan to do in El Nido. There are alternatives though, hope your accommodation accepts credit cards. Here’s more of my Palawan budget tips too.

2. Zigzag roads or great waves might make you vomit. It’s a 5-6 hour drive from Puerto Princesa, and the roads are winding.. Make sure first aid kit comes in handy just in case you or a travel companion gets dizzy. Throw up bag is also useful.


northern hope tours

3. If you arrived in the wee hours of the morning, you can sleep on the bus and wait for the sunrise to set before you go off. Once I took the last trip from Puerto Princesa to Taytay (a small town before El Nido), but since we arrive at around 1AM, I didn’t want to go down Taytay and the scaredy cat in me decided to head to El Nido instead.. but when we arrived in El Nido, it’s still very early.. Good thing the bus conductor said, we can sleep in the bus so there were around 5 of us who took advantage of the “free accommodation”. At around 6am, I traveled back to Taytay.

4. Tricycle fare around town is always 10-20 pesos.. If tricycle drivers asked you for 50 pesos, then you are being asked for tourist price. You can always have the option to look for another tricycle. If you arrived in the bus/van terminal, usually fares are cheaper when you walk away from the terminal and walk down the street.

5. There’s traffic in El Nido. The town did not anticipate that it will be famous one day, so when huge crowds of tourists came in, human and vehicle traffic became apparent. It will be a culture shock to those living in the mountains that rarely see people.


el nido jeep
 

6. If you are traveling in off peak season, it is optional to book an accommodation in advance because there are lots of places to choose from that are not listed in the internet. It is better if you have contacts with locals or someone that can get you a better deal on places and tours because El Nido can really get expensive if you don’t plan well. I was booked at Northern Hope Tours, you might want to check them out too.

 

7. Restaurant dining can get really expensive. If you have the money, you won’t really be bothered by 200 peso (5usd) coffee or a 300 peso (7.5usd) course meal. But for the budget conscious like me, there are alternative options to look around. Restaurants near the church are affordable and it offers healthy home cooked meals for 70-100 pesos (1-2USD) only; you may want to check it out. And you wanted a cool yet affordable coffee shop? Find the coffee shop of Gawad Kalinga at the other end of El Nido town proper.. their views are nice too.

8. There’s cheap buys in El nido.. El Nido can be expensive at first sight. But if you look around, you can actually shop and buy a short for 20 pesos (or ~0.5 USD)


cheap finds in El Nido
 

9. Make sure you bring extra money when going to boat tours because you’ll pay extra for paddle boats, coconut juice, etc on islands. You’ll pity yourself if you didn’t hire the paddle boat to go to the small lagoon specially if you don’t know how to swim.


palawan best island3
 

10. El Nido to Coron is a difficult route. If you decide to head over to Coron, make sure you check the weather and the waves.. I tried that route and it topped my list as one of the scariest boat rides of my life. If you want to experience how terrifying it is, follow your desire and travel from El Nido to Coron on rainy season.

There are indeed more hidden challenges like lack of potable water (yep) and electricity outages that most of you might never experience because you came to Palawan as tourists.. and thus you will never know the joys and pains of being a local in Paradise.. I might write about this for another story, we’ll see.

So there you go. Did I miss anything? Do you have any addition to the pointers above? No matter what, the best island in the world is still a beauty and I recommend you should visit it at least once in your life. For those who are already going, hope you have fun in El Nido. ^_^

Related articles:

http://grasya.com/2013/01/what-to-do-in-puerto-princesa-palawan/
http://grasya.com/2012/11/the-vanishing-batak-tribe-of-palawan/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/24/coron-palawan-philippines_n_6193058.html

How to Get Free Accommodation When You Travel

How to Get Free Accommodation When You Travel

I have to tell you something.. most of the places we stayed at when I was traveling with my mom were free..

And surprisingly, those places were very nice.. almost glamorous. And did I mention free? You can read more about how to stay in hotels for free here.

hotel in Thailand


 

Ok before I make some of you envious (and plot a way to rob our house again like what happened last 2013), let me tell you that there are ways for you to have free stays too. Here are some options:

1. Volunteering –  I was able to go to India and Thailand because of a volunteer agency. In exchange of the work that I did for non profit organizations, I was able to learn the language and culture of the country, was able to get a nice apartment, and I was able to travel as well.. on a budget of course.

 

2. Couchsurfing – although people see this as a way to get free accommodation, you are expected to barter something. Like cultural exchanges, and a little bit of household chores. There are generous souls who I met that did not ask for anything but as a responsible guest, I did my best to reciprocate the generosity I’m receiving. This is my room when I was in Nepal, not bad for a “couch”


 

3. Stay at family homes – because most Asians are family oriented, most also prefer to stay in houses of relatives when traveling. That’s why sometimes it’s the advantage of a large family clan. My family clan is scattered around the Philippines so when I get to travel around, I almost always have free places to stay. You don’t have a large family clan? No worries, families can be in a form of organizations or friends.. ask to be adopted by one ^_^

 

4. Join Contests – well, unfortunately I was not lucky enough to win in such contests.. so I made my own contests :)).. check out my posts about how grasya.com gave free accommodation in Nepal and Thailand, hopefully grasya.com can give away more contests in the future ^_^

 


 

5. Get sponsored – From our last trip, I was not able to volunteer or couchsurf, we also don’t have families in Thailand and Vietnam. But lucky enough, advertisers are able to fund my trip so we got to stay in fancy hotels. I also got promo codes from Airbnb so it reduced our accommodation budget significantly.

 

Despite that, since I’m all about transparency, I still will post stories about not so nice experiences don’t worry :P

There are also other creative ways to get free accommodations which include house sitting, woofing, work exchange, and I’m still experimenting on Trampolinn. But I haven’t done those yet, probably I’ll do it when I get to Europe as I intend to stay in that continent for a bit longer.. as you see, I do love long term travels… We’ll see what the future holds.

 

How about you? Do you have tips on how to get free accommodations when you travel? Do share your tips.

 

 

 

Pope Francis Philippine Itinerary

I have visited the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal, I have visited different Mosques when I travel to Muslim countries, it seems fitting that I join the millions of people to welcome Pope Francis in the Philippines because I’m Roman Catholic.

The travel to Europe will follow.. as soon as I got travel funds to go to that part of the world.. not sure when.. Hopefully this year dear Universe/Angels/Saints/God? ^_^

Anyway, here goes the Pope’s itinerary:

January 15

5:45 pm – Arrival in Manila, followed by a motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature, or the Vatican Embassy, along Taft Avenue

January 16

9:15 am – Welcome ceremony in the presidential palace, Malacañang, with a courtesy visit to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

10:15 am – Meeting with civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, and a speech by Francis; followed by a motorcade to the Manila Cathedral

11:15 am – Holy Mass with bishops, priests, and consecrated persons at the Manila Cathedral; followed by a motorcade to the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City

5:30 pm – Meeting with families at the Mall of Asia Arena

January 17

8:15 am – Departure for Tacloban City, from the Villamor Air Base

9:30 am – Arrival in Tacloban City

10 am – Concelebrated Mass near the Tacloban airport

12:45 pm – Lunch with several Yolanda survivors at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo, Leyte

3 pm – Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, Leyte

3:30 pm – Meeting with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and families of Yolanda survivors at the Palo Cathedral

5 pm – Departure for Manila

6:15 pm – Arrival in Manila, at the Villamor Air Base

January 18

9:45 am – Meeting with leaders of various religions at UST in Manila

10:30 am – Meeting with the youth in the sports field of UST, and a speech by Francis; followed by a motorcade to Rizal Park

3:30 pm – Concluding Mass at Rizal Park, Manila

January 19

9:45 am – Departure ceremony at the presidential pavilion of the Villamor Air Base

10 am – Departure for Rome


pope francis visit