2016 – The Year I Made My Childhood Dream Come True


Notice: Undefined index: exclude_cat_ids in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/old-to-new-agoda-link-converter/agoda.php on line 180

Notice: Undefined index: disable_keyword_conversion in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/old-to-new-agoda-link-converter/agoda.php on line 198

I think everyone will agree when I say that 2016 is one of those years that we all want to forget because of all the crazy sh*t that happened in this world.

Personally, my year didn’t start off right when I spent the second week of January confined in the hospital for 4 days for facial cellulitis. Ironically, it’s also when I found out I got the big project I was waiting for which kept me busy the whole month of February.

In March, my mom and I went back to Hong Kong and Macau where we enjoyed 13-degree weather even though it was already supposed to be spring.

hk-macau

We went back to Disneyland, the happiest place in the world, but skipped the other tourist sites. It was the first time in 4 years that we traveled again after her second breast cancer ordeal, so I wanted the trip to be as relaxed as possible.

Unfortunately, weather wasn’t on our side on our way to Macau. The fog was so thick there was zero visibility. We were stuck at sea for about an hour before we were allowed to dock at the ferry terminal.

20160318_134720

Similarly, our flight to Manila the next day was cancelled because of the fog.

Within 24 hours, we went from sleeping in a 5-star hotel to sleeping on the floor of Macau International Airport. But my mom was such a trooper. I’m so proud of her.  😀

April and May were months of canceled trips to Palawan and Cebu, respectively, but at least we still got to squeeze in a little family outing at South Forbes before summer ended.

June to September was crazy! I had to juggle a full-time job and 4 side projects because I decided, you know what, it’s high time I go to Europe! Work hard, travel harder, ika nga!

I honestly didn’t keep my hopes high of getting a Schengen visa, but I guess the travel gods love me after all. haha I couldn’t believe I’m finally going to fulfill a childhood dream!

A day after my birthday, I flew to Europe. 🙂

Nag-trabaho. Nag-ipon. Nag-Europe. Ganern!

This Euro trip was the second time I traveled solo. Sure, I feel resfeber prior to embarking on one, but I never feel alone, lonely or afraid when I’m already on the road by myself.

Anyway, my first stop was Prague, the capital of Czech Republic.

I couldn’t have picked a better jumping-off point. I was totally smitten! It was everything I imagined Europe to be (and more).

czech1
Prague’s Old Town Square look like something straight out of a fairy tale.

The city is brimming with beautiful structures, lively squares, and each neighborhood has so much history the world know so little of.

And did I mention it’s pretty affordable too?

mu6qdhc
Met this lovely Pinoy couple in the walking tour. They were like my parents for a day. 😀

Next stop was Vienna, Austria.

I tried to soak in some culture, so I joined a guided tour of the Schönbrunn Palace.

More than the impressive rooms of the palace, I learned a lot about the House of Habsburg – one of the most powerful royal houses of Europe of their time. I’m not even a museum kind of girl, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Also met Vins and Yosh of The Poor Traveler because we coincidentally stayed at the same hostel!

002norv
Love locks on Makartsteg Bridge over the Salzach River, Salzburg

After a few days of gloomy weather, Mr. Sun finally came out when I went to Salzburg.

I didn’t have any expectations of Salzburg. All I know prior to going there was it’s Mozart’s hometown and where they filmed The Sound of Music. But man, Salzburg is gorgeous! I actually regret that I only stayed there for 2 nights.

Still, I’m grateful I got to visit one of my top dream destinations – Hallstatt! It still makes me giddy just thinking about it.

hall1.jpg
Overlooking Wolfgangsee. I still can’t get over this view!!!
hgiulvt
Going to Hallstatt was a dream come true!

I spent a night in Zurich just to break the journey, and went to Interlaken the following day.

Blue hour #Zurich #Switzerland #katgoestoeurope #backpackingeurope #Europe #eurotrip #centraleurope

A post shared by Kat (@excursionista_net) on

On the train to Interlaken, I met two Pinay nurses who work in Saudi Arabia who were also traveling around Europe. We planned on going to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen together the next day, but we didn’t see each other at the Interlaken Ost Station at the time we agreed and the train was about to leave, so I hopped on without them.

wvtcsdp

It rained the whole time I was in Switzerland, but that didn’t stop me from exploring. I think it even made me a pluviophile (at least while I was there).

Swiss people are some of the jolliest and nicest people I’ve met. Good vibes lang sila lagi!

Yes, Switzerland is ridiculously expensive, but it’s worth every damn centavo IMO.

1odyudq
Here, Switzerland, take my money. LOL

Finally, I spent the last leg of my Euro trip in Italy.

My first stop was Florence – capital of the Tuscan Region, and often referred to as the cradle of the Renaissance.

#Firenze #Florence #Tuscany #Italy #katgoestoeurope 🇮🇹 #asuszenfoneselfie

A post shared by Kat (@excursionista_net) on

Florence and I started on the wrong foot when a bus inspector tried to extort €50 from me, so we had an altercation. I demanded to be taken to the police station to which he sheepishly said “No. No. No polizia.” He must have been bummed I didn’t fall for his modus operandi. Laking third world ‘to, huy!

As a result, I missed the earlier train I was trying to catch so that I could go to both Pisa and Cinque Terre on the same day. Oh well!

9iur9a8
I went on a day trip to Pisa, and had the best Quattro Formaggi Pizza. #rhymingskillz Suddenly, all is right in the world again. LOL

Another item ticked off my bucket list was Cinque Terre – the 5 colorful fishing villages along the Italian Riviera.

It was crowded, as expected, but tolerable.

Of course I didn’t pass up the chance to eat the quintessential seafood spaghetti in Vernazza while watching people frolic in the beach.

wn2sm9x
Cinque Terre

Finally, no trip to Italy is complete without going to the eternal city of Rome!

jtphitc
The Colosseum, Fontana di Trevi, St. Peter’s Basilica, Pantheon and The Vatican Museum

I love how most of Rome’s famous landmarks are kind of close to each other, but man, I’ve never seen as many tourist per attraction as in Rome. It was crazy! Hindi uso off season sa Rome, bes. Eternal city kaya eternal rin ang pila. hahaha Even though I bought my tickets to the Colosseum and to the Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel online, I still had to line up to go inside.

And the food…oh my goodness, Italian food! Grazie mille for contributing to my ever expanding waistline. LOL If you’ve seen Eat Pray Love, the part where Julia Roberts had to buy a new pair of jeans just because she couldn’t fit in her old ones anymore, yup, pretty much the story of my life. haha

***

So that’s it! That pretty much sums up my 2016.

I’ve been vitamin sea-deficient this year, so I’ll probably focus more on beach trips and local destinations next year. I also hope to explore more of East Asia.

Happy Holidays, everyone! See you on the road and cheers to more adventures! 😀

This is my contribution to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ 2016 Year End Blog Carnival. The compilation will be hosted by Mervin of Pinoy Adventurista.

My First Ever Travel Buddy (A Mother’s Day Special)


Notice: Undefined index: exclude_cat_ids in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/old-to-new-agoda-link-converter/agoda.php on line 180

Notice: Undefined index: disable_keyword_conversion in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/old-to-new-agoda-link-converter/agoda.php on line 198

Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/seo-image/seo-friendly-images.class.php on line 608

I was only four months old when my mom first brought me to Baguio. We lived there with my father’s family for a while, then we’d just visit from time to time as I was growing up. Actually, we were there again just this weekend.
Now when I think of it, I realize that my mom really was my first travel buddy because we used to be joined at the hip. Growing up, my cousins would poke fun at me because I couldn’t go anywhere without her or her permission. She wouldn’t let me go on out-of-town trips with friends; not even sleepover at other people’s homes until I was already working. So the people who know me were probably surprised when I started traveling without her. But of course there’s still the usual text messages of “Asan ka na? Anong oras ka uuwi?/Anong oras flight mo?”  :p

***
Anyway, in this post I’ll be recounting two of our major and probably most memorable trips ever. 
August 2009: I asked her if she would like to spend Christmas in Singapore and her face lit up. Without hesitation, she said ‘yes’. I believe she deserved that ‘break’ after taking care of my father who battled Parkinson’s for four years. It was no easy feat.    
In between the months prior to our departure, we were busy fixing my DOST clearance, and applying for her passport and renewing mine. She wants to be sure that we have all the necessary documents to avoid immigration problems.
Fast forward to December 23, 2009, we left home at 10:00 for our 14:45 flight. See? The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. :p As soon as the check-in counters opened, we lined up and after breezing through immigration, we finally heaved a sigh of relief. We had our first passport stamps! Upon boarding the plane, I was a bit worried that she might feel some discomfort as it was her first time to fly, but everything went smoothly and we landed in Changi Airport after more than 3 hours. 

Night Safari

My uncle lives in Singapore so even though he was there to take us around, there were times that we explored the city on our own. We walked the whole length of Orchard Road and checked out almost all the malls. Prior to the trip, she was having knee pains for several months so I was worried that she might complain and I’d be annoyed that we’d just end up sitting around waiting for my uncle, but no, we’d just rest periodically and continue walking. After the day was over, she said she was surprised her knee pain was gone. Well guess who had swollen foot after? I did. -_- 


***

March 2011: We went on another trip; this time to Hong Kong and Macau. It was our first time to experience winter (or at least what’s left of it) so it was a very memorable trip. If you’ve been to Hong Kong, you’d know how taxing it is to walk around theme parks all day but she never complained nor slowed us down. She even had the same childlike amusement that I had. We really had a great time.

Hong Kong Disneyland

In both occasions, we just stayed in hostels so there was no breakfast included. And just like at home, sometimes she’ll wake up early and go to the nearest convenience store or fast food to forage buy breakfast. Saan ka pa! Lumalabas mag-isa kahit nasa abroad dahil on mommy duty pa rin. 😀  

Nan Lian Gardens 
But then in April 2011, just a little over a month after we got back from Hong Kong, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor advised her to have a mastectomy so she had her operation in May 2011, and had six chemotherapy sessions (June – October). She knew I bought tickets the year before and was planning to do an Indochina trip by the end of 2011 so even though it was just a little over a month after her last chemotherapy session, and even if it meant that she’d be left alone for 9 days, she let me push through with the trip. She’d become supportive of my travels so I feel grateful for that. In fact, I recently made a booking (with her prodding!) so hopefully everything will be okay (health-wise) so we can fly again before the year ends. 

When I was a kid I used to tell her that when I become rich, all I want to do is travel the world. Well, I’m still far from being rich (in fact, we just live in a one-bedroom apartment) but I’m slowly realizing that dream. I know a lot of people are baffled how we can afford such ‘luxury’, but you see, my mom and I, we don’t really care much about material possessions or financial wealth. As long as we have roof on our heads, eat three times a day, and able to pay the bills, we’re okay. She believes we rather invest on experiences.

She said some fortuneteller told her ages ago that she’ll be able to travel abroad because of her future child/ren. I’m glad I’m somehow able to make that into a reality, so whenever I hear people tell her “Ang swerte mo naman, pinag-bbyahe ka ng anak mo.” (“You’re lucky. You’re able to travel because of your daughter.”), I can’t help but feel proud. If people only know about all the hardships she’s been through for me and our family, you’d say that she deserves more than that.

***

From Getty Images

Before we learned to read maps, our moms taught us the alphabet. Before we ran marathons or trekked mountains, she held our hands and taught us how to walk. Before we learned the art of packing, she was the one who prepared our backpacks and lunch box for school or for that once a year field trip we always look forward to.
I guess it’s safe to say that who and what we are now, we owe it greatly to our moms. So when you have the chance and the means, treat her to that well-deserved vacation. 😉


This is my contribution to this month’s blog carnival:
Traveling With Your Mom (A Mother’s Day Special)  


Blog compilations will be hosted by

Complete compilation of previous Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival here.


K

Hong Kong-Macau Series: Ladies Market and other haul


Notice: Undefined index: exclude_cat_ids in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/old-to-new-agoda-link-converter/agoda.php on line 180

Notice: Undefined index: disable_keyword_conversion in /home2/excursj7/public_html/wp-content/plugins/old-to-new-agoda-link-converter/agoda.php on line 198
After we got back from Macau, we took a breather at the hostel then went to the night market in Mongkok called Ladies Market.
We took TST -> Mongkok. We got a bit lost since we took the exit pointing to Shantung Street and walked further away from the market. I tried asking the locals but just as I was about to open my mouth, they’re quick to shake their head hinting they can’t speak English. I guess that’s part of Hong Kong’s charm. You’re kind of worried about getting lost even though you know that you don’t have to. As long as there’s a MTR exit, you’ll be able to go back to your hotel. 😉
Anyway, 5 to 10 minutes later we finally reached the market. It’s an alley full of stalls that sell everything from toys to clothes to bags and even home decor. Some say this doesn’t even beat Divisoria :p but if you want to give your friends and loved ones pasalubong from Hong Kong, then this is the place to be.
Haggling 101: Instead of asking for a discount, bid for half the price right away!
Scenario: (haggling a BEN10 shirt & short combo)
Me: How much?
Vendor: HKD110
Me: I get two for HKD100 (spoken in broken English!)
Vendor: No, no! One HKD110
Me: *shakes head, walks away*
Vendor: Ey! Oke, oke! I give two for HKD100. Only for you!
*snicker*
 
BEN10 shirt & short combo (originally HKD110 per set)
Hannah Montana towel (originally HKD49; I got it for HKD35)
 
Was also able to buy tights for HKD20 (forgot to take a picture)
 
Other purchases not from the night market:
 3 HK shirts for HKD110 from The Peak Market
3 executive pens with Hong Kong engraving from The Peak Market, HKD100
 
Note: You can’t haggle at The Peak Market.
Crocs Farrah Wedge in Oyster from Citygate, HKD158
Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Shower Gel 200ml from Sasa, HKD48
Orange Avenue UV Color Lipgloss from Sasa, HKD19.9
Pink Dolphin plush from Ocean Park, HKD69