2012 Year in Travel: Of New Destinations and Familiar Places

In just a few days we’ll be saying goodbye to 2012, so here’s a roundup of my year in travel plus snippets of my un-blogged trips; four trips with two destinations each (you gotta maximize the travel tax and/or terminal fee, you know) with different travel buddies.  



The year started with a trip to the Philippines’ last frontier: Palawan. Together with my college BFF, we explored ‘hidden’ and ‘secret’ beaches (don’t ask what’s the difference), and visited the newly-proclaimed New 7 Wonders of Nature: Puerto Princesa Underground River

Aside from a missed van trip back to Puerto Princesa and some boo-boos along the way, I’d like to believe that the whole trip went well. :p El Nido remains at the top of the most beautiful places I’ve been to.

  


Second quarter of this year, another close friend and I explored Malaysia for a week. We started our journey in Kuala Lumpur, went north to the island of Penang, then headed south to Melaka before crossing the border to Singapore.

Our goal? To eat, pray, and shop our way through Malaysia (and Singapore) and boy did we do some damage. lol We sampled Penang’s dishes, visited temples/places of worship, and shopped ’til our bodies ache. No stall was spared in Berjaya Times Square as well as Jonker Street in Melaka. I swear, my bags were multiplying like gremlins. Mind you, I was able to sneak everything as ‘hand carry’ *evil laugh*


But if there’s one thing that will be forever etched on my mind about this trip, it’s got to be when we got bumped off the bus twice: from KL to Penang then from Penang to Melaka! Good thing the border crossing was uneventful.

Iloilo – Boracay 


Together with my cousin, three of my colleagues, and a fellow Girl Talker and her hubby, we went to Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo two days after my birthday.

We visited different islands, a sand bar, a saltwater lagoon — which could pass as a doppelganger of one of Palawan’s several lagoons/lakes — and did some climbing. And even though we had a traumatic caving experience, I know everyone still had a lot of fun.


But what I find amusing with this trip was that we took different flights (heck, my cousin and I weren’t even seated together on the plane), just met at the port the following day for island hopping, then went to different destinations on the third day. lol Two of my colleagues went to their respective homes in Iloilo, and my other colleague and the couple went to Bacolod. 


Me and my cousin? Well, we were actually torn whether we should stay and explore Iloilo, do a day trip to Guimaras, go to Bacolod for Masskara Festival, or just beach bum in Boracay. We eventually decided we’d go with the latter because our bodies were still aching from hiking and spelunking that we just wanted to lay on the beach and do nothing. Well, it took us three van rides (Iloilo to Roxas; Roxas to Kalibo; and Kalibo to Caticlan), a boat ride, and a tricycle ride (a total of 6 hours) to get there. So much for relaxation, huh?  

Singapore with LEGOLAND side trip 



And just this month, my mom and I, and — wait for it — our neighbors went to Singapore. Blame it on seat sales. So yes, within a span of four months, I was back in Singapore — and unexpectedly — in Malaysia too since we went on a side trip to LEGOLAND (which by the way was not part of the original plan).

Even though I wasn’t able to make as many trips as I wanted this year, I’m still thankful I got the chance to visit new destinations and familiar places. Always go for quality over quantity, right? 


So here’s hoping I’d be able to tick off more destinations on my (ever-growing) bucket list for 2013. Oh yes Laos and Myanmar, I have my eyes on you!



K


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This is my contribution to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival’s yearender:

2012 Year in Travel  


Blog compilations will be co-hosted by:

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

It’s More Fun in Palawan: GoHotels Puerto Princesa (Review)

For our accommodation, I was very lucky to snag GoHotel Puerto Princesa’s introductory rate of Php88.00 per room per night – well Php98.56 if you include the tax but it’s still friggin’ less than a hundred pesos per night! 😀 I’ve stayed in their Cybergate branch twice so I already have expectations and this one did not disappoint.

 Beautifully lit facade 
 Front Desk
 I’m not really a fan of green and yellow but they made it work.

It gives this common area a cool and soothing vibe.

THE ROOM 

Other room amenities include LCD TV with cable and electronic safe. I also like that they have a wall-mounted coat rack (as seen from the mirror).

Bringing of food and drinks inside the room is prohibited though. You can only eat in the common area.

Bathroom is also pretty much the same as the one in Cybergate except for the ceiling-mounted rain shower (that’s aside from the one pictured above).

Overall, I can definitely say we got waaaay more than what we paid for. 😉

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On another note, since this was our last night in Palawan, we headed to Kinabuch’s for dinner after freshening up.
 
THE DINNER
 Crocodile meat – Adobado style
Fresh tamilok (wood worm)
Just for experience :p
I know it’s not my most flattering picture, but you have to give me props for trying. Yes I slurped the whole thing. They say it tastes like oyster. I wouldn’t know because I don’t eat oysters. :p It was okay, though, it does have this distinct aftertaste. 
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Gah! Four days was such a short time to experience everything that Palawan has to offer. If time and money is not an issue, this is definitely the province I will keep going back to. 🙂


K

It’s More Fun in Palawan: Underground River Experience

We only had four days to spend in Palawan (with land and boat travel consuming about 16 hours of it), so you can just imagine how cramped our schedule was. After island hopping on our second day in El Nido, we went back to Puerto Princesa the day after. And what’s a trip to Puerto Princesa without a visit to one of the recently proclaimed New7Wonders of Nature right?

For us to be able to make it to the Underground River tour, we had to take the first trip from El Nido at 5:00 am but we missed it. The only instance we weren’t on time and we got left by the van! On top of that, the next trip would be at 7:00 am. FML! Frustration started to sink in and I was resigned to the fact that we won’t make it to the tour, and just head straight to the hotel to rest. But the universe had different plans for us (weh?!) One of the van owners was going home to Puerto Princesa anyway so he offered to drop us off at Salvacion Junction (for Php500.00).

After about four hours (with two stopovers in between), we reached the junction and before I could blink, we were already inside another van bound for Sabang. Everything happened so fast I almost left my bag in the previous van! *facepalm*

From Salvacion Junction, it was another 45 minutes to an hour drive to Sabang with several stopovers for refreshment/bathroom break and picture-taking.

Ulugan Bay as seen from Buenavista Viewdeck

The scenic view made the ride to Sabang a pleasant one.

At exactly 12 noon we reached Sabang for lunch. The guide led the group to Robert’s and left to take care of the permits when another boo boo happened. I don’t know why it never occurred to us that lunch might be included in the tour (because we really did not avail of the package. We just joined my friend’s tour group. Read: sabit), so when we found out that the buffet costs Php200.00, we opted to skip lunch. We had brunch during the trip from El Nido anyway.

We left Sabang around 1:30 pm and reached Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park 15 minutes after.

It rained the day before so the water was a bit murky.

Each boat has a battery-operated light and can accommodate 10 people plus a guide. Guests are also provided a life vest and hard hat.     

TOP (L-R): T.rex (?), Fish Head, Holy Family/Nativity
MIDDLE: Giant Corn, Mushroom, Giant Peanut
BOTTOM: Sharon Stone (go figure :p), Shark Fin, Python
 Once inside, we marveled at the numerous stalactite and stalagmite formations resembling animals, fruits and vegetables among others. Our guide would often crack a joke while describing the formations so he advised that we keep our mouths closed (especially when staring at the stalactites) unless we want a taste of bat droppings :p He was such a riot we were probably the noisiest boat inside. We were lucky to have him as our guide because he made the tour not only educational, but entertaining as well.
The view that greeted us after our Underground River experience

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For affordable package tours, you can check out La Tiara Tours and Convention and look for Charisse Sanchez. 

Tel: 0917-809-4509
Email: latiaratours@yahoo.com