Slowing down in Cairns

Paddling on our kayaks off Palm Cove, Luke, our young kayak guide glides effortlessly beside us.  He tells me he’s just been to Sagada, and says Filipinos are the friendliest and most generous people he’s met.  I smile and nod.

We’ve been kayaking since seven in the morning, and paddle close to a deserted island where, according to Luke, a luxury resort used to stand.  A lone dog gazes at us.  Earlier we had paddled out, trying to get into the rhythm while enjoying the natural beauty around us. The ocean stretched endlessly ahead, and behind us, the palm trees lined the coast against the green mountains. It looked just like any island in the Philippines. We were in Cairns, a tropical paradise in the northeast coast of Australia.   Continue reading

Starting the Year Easy in Sydney

Welcoming the New Year in one of the first countries in the world to ring in 2017 seemed like a crazy plan but panned out to be a relaxed, memorable long weekend. The city of Sydney was brimming with revelers from all over on New Year’s weekend. The beaches were packed–Coogee, Bondi and Manly, and so were tourist strips, Darling Harbour and the Circular Quay. With the summer weather, everyone was happy to be out in the sun.

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Walking the streets of Barrio Malasaña

On a scorching day in August, we come out of the Gran Via metro, right smack in the middle of the buzzing hordes of tourists, who like us, had the same idea of spending this summer weekend in the city of Madrid. I look up in awe at the grandiose skyscrapers along the famous street of Gran Via (literally ‘Great Way’), and stare at the flashy Schweppes sign at the top of the Capitol building. Almost like a cross between New York’s Fifth Avenue and Broadway, Gran Via shimmers, and flaunts its row of glitzy shops, theatres, hotels and chain restaurants amid beautiful Art Deco buildings.

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Wines, Beaches and Fiestas around Vitoria

Vitoria’s appeal also lies in its proximity to many attractions, all within an hour’s drive away. The Rioja wine region, south of Vitoria, is known worldwide for its local wineries. From Vitoria, we drove through a winding road across the Sierra de Cantabria, and down to the valley of Rioja.

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Gildas and Cañas in Green Vitoria

They say the world keeps getting smaller with today’s technology, and how we are separated by only six other people. Outrageous, but that’s how it felt this last year. It started when I met some travellers who were tipped by a friend to make an unplanned detour to this part of the country. That spontaneous trip led to another and then a couple more. A year later, I found myself back in Spain for another summer of music festivals, heritage trails, food adventures, and beach escapades. Continue reading

Rediscovering El Nido


Flying into El Nido was as dreamy as it sounds. As the plane slowly made its descent, we peered through the window and saw several green islands with pearl white coastlines surrounded by turquoise waters. The afternoon sun cast a golden sheen on the beaches and coconut trees below us, painting an all too perfect image, like a scene from one of Julio Cortazar’s stories. Continue reading

Hanoi Dreaming

A year ago, I took my mom to Hanoi for a quick three-day trip. She had been to Ho Chi Minh a few years ago, but it was both our first time to the capital city of Vietnam. Known also as the country’s cultural capital, Hanoi exudes an old world charm even as the city straddles between its rich history and traditions, and the pull of modernity and western influence.

old quarterWe chose to stay in the Old Quarter, an intoxicating maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with all kinds of shops, cafes, bars, low rise hotels and apartments in French architecture. The streets are incessantly packed with scooters, pedestrians, walking vendors, and tourists. We stayed in Quoc Hoa Hotel – an eight-storey boutique hotel in the middle of the Old Quarter.

Its wooden floors and wooden furnitures gave out a homey feel. The breakfast buffet which was served on the top floor overlooking the city had a delightful Vietnamese spread. Having authentic pho for breakfast was a welcome treat!  Continue reading

First solo travel in 2003

Almost 12 years ago, I traveled on my own for the first time to Australia. Back then, there weren’t smartphones, no googlemaps, or facebook and instagram, no tripadvisor. I had just finished college three years before, and had been working in our family-run business. For the trip, I bought a big blue backpack and since I hadn’t really learned the art of packing light, also took my mom’s blue-green trolley. Not exactly a backpacker, but not the sleek traveler either. I brought my Canon digital camera, a clunky looking gadget by today’s standards, and a little notebook.  Since blogging was limited to known writers and personalities at that time, my hastily written journal was my only outlet.

17 Sept 03
11:45 AM  onboard Sydney to Singapore flight

I just finished watching a movie–Goodbye Lenin–a Deutsch film by Wolfgang Becker with cast lead by Daniel Bruhl. It’s a very moving story set in East Germany in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and capitalism took over socialist East Germany.  Continue reading

Street music, free concerts and festivals

There is something about street music that gets me excited. Maybe it’s the spontaneity of the artist and the spectators. The energy seems almost palpable when music is played and heard in open space.

Last month’s trip to Europe in the summer was filled with an eclectic mix of street performers, a park concert and my first international music festival! Here are some of those cool buskers, bands and performers!

cellist at rijks

I was lucky to walk by these guys right outside Rijksmuseum. I instantly drooled over the cellist when he played a very familiar classical song. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

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My 20 Days of Summer in Europe

For the longest time, Europe had always been on my dream travel list, and this year, I finally made it happen! With a weekend backpack, and a 30L compact trolley, I set on a 3-week trip to five countries across Europe, hitting the Western, Central and Southern parts, right in the middle of summer. My friend Ann and I were traveling from the Philippines, and Cherry, another friend from the US joined us on the first week. We had booked our interregional flights and train tickets a few weeks ahead, and contacted our apartment hosts about two weeks before the trip. I picked most of the apartments, and my choices were based on budget, neighborhood, host’s profile and amenities, in that order. While I knew we wanted to be accessible to major attractions, I particularly wanted to be in a local neighborhood, not an excessively tourist area.

 Postcard-perfect Amsterdam canal bridgecopyFirst stop was Amsterdam, the capital city of Netherlands. An apartment in the Jordaan Quarter was going to be our home for the first 5 days of our trip.   Formerly a working class neighborhood, Jordaan is now home to young professionals and small businesses, with charming little shops, art galleries and brown cafes.  Continue reading