2011 in review

1 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Istanbul, Turkey

21 Sep

Istanbul is the most compact and busiest city I have ever visited. It’s all there — the historical sites, people from all over the world, business and commercial centers, unique food and non-stop actions. It was like an extra ordinary adventure every day!

Because of the variety that Turkey has to offer, I decided to avail the tour package offered by Backpackers Travel. It was recommended by Turkey Travel Planner. There’s so much to choose and so it was confusing and yet so exciting!

I had my own accommodation arranged in Istanbul. I picked Tulip Guesthouse to be my home for the first night. It was perfectly located in Akbiyik C. which is in the center of the city. The hostel is good for those who simply wants to sleep at night, eat breakfast in the morning and have decent shower. Neighboring hostels have places for partying.

As I landed in the airport, I was picked up by Backpackers Travel for hotel transfer costing EUR20. Then right away I joined their City Walk Tour…yes…just by walking! I decided to do it immediately to familiarize the area. It was a long day! But it’s worth it.

Our first stop was the Topkapi Palace. It opens at 9AM and closes at 5PM. This place is closed on Tuesdays and have admission fee of TL20 and Harem is additional TL15. If you are on a tour package like I had, you only have to pay for Harem.

Harem

Some sites mention that you have to go first to Harem. But in my personal experience, you should go first to Treasury I in the 3rd courtyard. This place usually have a long queue. Why? I don’t know for there was so many people waiting to get in.

To the west of the palace are the Istanbul Archeological Museum, and beyond them is the Gulhane Park.

After Topkapi, we went to the Blue Mosque. This is just across the park from Ayasofya (which will be our subject later on). This mosque is closed to visitors for 25 minutes after each call to prayer, and for several hours on Fridays.

Istanbul’s imperial Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I is called the Blue Mosque because of its interior tiles. This is one of the premier sights and you are welcome to visit for free but donations are gratefully received. You have to take off your shoes before entering and place it in the provided plastic bag.

The mosque (built 1603-17) is the masterwork of Ottoman architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga. It’s built on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium, on the southeaster of the Hippodrome. And speaking of Hippodrome, this was our next point of visit.

Byzantine Hippodrome was the center of sportive events (chariot races, athletics) and political activities through 500 years of Ottoman history as well. This stretches between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

After Hippodrome, we had our lunch then we went to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia). This was the greatest church in Christendom, and was meant to be. This church remained the largest church ever built until St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed in Rome a thousand years later.

Then we proceed to the Basilica Cistern, (Yerebatan Sarnıçı) is beneath the little park at the northern end of the Hippodrome. Above the hidden cistern is a stone tower that was once part of the city’s system of aqueducts.

Beside the stone tower is the Milion, all that remains of a triumphal gate that served as the zero-mile-marker on the road called the Mese (now Divan Yolu), the Roman road between Constantinople and Rome. For visitors, Divan Yolu (dee-VAHN yoh-loo) is their main street from Sultanahmetand the Hippodrome past shops and restaurants, past Ottoman sultans’ tombs, mosques and medreses (theological schools), pastByzantine forums and monuments such as Cemberlitas(the Burnt Column) to Beyazit Square, the Grand Bazaar and Istanbul University.

Then we visited a carpet center where we were a presentation of different carpets and how it was being weaved. Our next and last destination for the walking tour is the Grand Bazaar.

The Grand Bazaar is the older and the largest covered market place in the world which is located right in the center of the city. This was where I found money changer with higher exchange rates!

After visiting some shops and buying souvenir items, I went back at the hotel on my own. I waited for the night to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in the dark with its magnificent lights.

This was my Day 1 in Turkey.

Bohol

30 Jun

If you think Bohol is all about Chocolate Hills and Tarsier…well, you are wrong. There’s so much to see here! Sandugo, Hinagdanan Cave, Bee Farm, Bayoyong, Loboc River Cruise, Panglao and Alona Beaches, Balicasag Snorkeling, Twin Bridge, Dolphin Watching and a lot more!

It was indeed a perfect choice to start my holiday in the Philippines.

Thank you to Romel Garma for showing us around. He is a licensed tour guide.  For those who want a professional and personalized tour services, he is the best in town! Find him in facebook.

Estimated Budget per head: Php5,000 (USD114).

Boracay

30 Jun

This popular summer getaway is for those who loves night life and beach activities like parasailing, helmet diving, kite boarding, among others! What makes Boracay so special is its white sand. It’s so fine that you will enjoy every step you’ll make.

You would want to visit other beaches nearby like Diniwid, Puka and Bugabog. In Diniwid, you will be able to see some rock formations. On the other hand, Puka beach offers a pristine experience with its not so crowded area plus a cave adventure. Meanwhile, Bugabog is boasting its kite boarding adventure.

If you want to see the overview of the island, a trek to Mt. Luho is a perfect choice to see it. You can also enjoy the mini zoo they have there and the zipline. You can go there by walking, riding a trike or try driving an ATB. It’s gonna be a cool experience.

My favorite activity there was the helmet diving because of the interaction with the fish when you feed them. Thank you to Mike, Neil and Erwin for sharing the experience with me. For me, it’s the best!

Estimated Budget per head: Php7,000 (USD159).

Calaguas and Bagasbas

30 Jun

I thought I wont be able to see this place. I was very happy my flight was postponed the following week!

Traveling to this island was not really on my list. But while I was browsing one travel group in Facebook, I saw this!

This island is the most beautiful and pristine among the places I’ve seen in the country and it is really worth seeing one more time! It has the finest sand. Not commercialized. You will surely have an ultimate beach camping experience here.

Thanks to Melvic Brinas who organized this weekly tour. The price of Php3500 (USD80) is very reasonable for a three-day and two-night Calaguas adventure. Delicious food, tents, and activities are just right for us.

There was electricity during the night and a mobile bar. Perfect for those who loves nightlife!

On the left side of the island you can do some trekking to have an overlooking. You will appreciate more the island once you have that view. Soooo beautiful! Very enchanting!

On our last day, we had a side trip to the surfing capital of Daet–Bagasbas. The beach has non-stop waves. It is indeed the best spot for surfing fanatics and beginners.

Basic surfing lessons are available for Php400 (USD9) for an hour. It’s gonna be a different experience when you try.
If you are not going to try surfing, you can walk and you will find a lighthouse where you can go up and have a nice view of the beach and its town.

The Tourist Inn where we stayed while waiting for our trip back home offers delicious adobong kangkong. You have to try it!

Estimated Budget per head: Php3700 (USD84)

Seoul, Korea

20 May

It’s been a month since I started blogging. And as I continue on my second month, I decided to write about one of the famous tourist spots in Asia.

Korea is very popular when it comes to drama-comedy tv series. In fact, they have made some of the locations of these tv series part of their tourist attractions. One example is the house used in Full House. It was not in Seoul though.

So then what can we see in Seoul?! A big business center. I think it is comparable to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in a different level. Nothing much to see…..in just one day…We were there for our lay-over going to USA.

Since we were travelling to USA, the immigration did not require us any visa to see the city. In the airport, you will find the transit tour desk in first and second floors. For more details of these tours, you can visit their site here. We availed the Seoul City Tour scheduled for the day.

Our first stop was Deoksugung Palace. This palace has held a guard-changing ceremony since 1996 after thorough historical research by leading historians. The ceremony, which is held in front of the Daehanmun Gate of Deoksugung Palace, is a tradition similar to the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace and offers a rare opportunity to experience royal culture. The royal gate is opened and closed at pre-determined times, and the gatekeepers in charge of guard duty and patrols hold a shift ceremony three times a day.

The Guard-Changing Ceremony

Deoksugung Palace

Our next stop was in Cheonggyecheon Stream. It is an 8.4 km long, modern public recreation space in downtown. The massive urban renewal project is on the site of a stream that flowed before the rapid post-war economic development required it to be covered by transportation infrastructure. The $900 million project initially attracted much public criticism but, after opening in 2005, has become popular among city residents and tourists.

After this, we went to Insa-dong, our last stop. This street is one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insa-dong specialize in a wide variety of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts.

On our way to Insa-dong, we were able to pass by the Gyeongbukgong Palace main gate. This royal palace is more beautiful than the first one I wrote about as this was considered the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty.

We had our late lunch prior proceeding to the airport. So biggie and yummy! Perfect food for our next long travel. It’s part of the package and I can tell that it was worth it. I’ll try their other tours next time. Till then!

San Diego, California

29 Apr

I thought San Diego is all about  Seaworld. I was wrong! There’s so much to see here!

But let me begin with the most famous one, the home of Shamu, Seaworld! This was our first itinerary when we went to Southern California. Since I had been to so many sea theme parks, I was not excited at all. Shamu changed my mood!

The show of Shamu was spectacular. It was entitled “Believe”. We were used to see dolphins having this kind of show but somebody believed that killer whales could do it as well. You will be surprised to see them in one big show! Of course, Seaworld have the popular dolphin show but with a twist! Gymnasts and birds have joined them in a new show entitled Blue Horizons. Those two shows were my top favorites. There is a lot more like Pet Rules, Sea Lion Live, among others. You would want to visit their website http://www.seaworld.com/sandiego/.

Our next stop was at Cabrillo National Monument. I was not able to get some information about Cabrillo but I was really amazed with the views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego. From here, we enjoyed the view of Coronado. It was a perfect combination of scenery and fresh air!

Then we visited Hotel del Coronado where the historical selling of California from Mexico to USA happened.

We also went to this marine place called Midway. This place is perfect for lovers! Very romantic!

The next on our list was Imperial Beach. Nice place for surfers and photographers. The scenery is simple and the sea have giant waves.

For our last destination, we went to Casa del Balboa. It was like back in time! Feel the old good times with its vintage architecture and scenery. We also visited the Orchidarium where fresh flowers of different kinds are there!