My Top 5 ‘Buti na Lang!’ Moments When I Traveled Solo

As you can probably tell (or not) from the title of this blog post, Taglish ito because…why not? Gusto ko lang! Para maiba naman. There’s always a first time, pero limited edition lang ito kumbaga. Wow! haha

I remember nung nag-travel ako for 32 days nang solo, twice lang ata ako nakapag-Tagalog: when I met up with fellow travel blogger, Joshua, in Chiang Mai, and nung inampon ulit ako ni Riz when I went to KL. Hindi naman ako naubusan ng English pero nag-level up ang charade skills ko. :p
 
Anyway, ano nga ba ang ikkwento ko? Ahh, yung mga bagay na buti na lang ginawa ko nung bumyahe akong mag-isa. 

Kung inaakala mong ang post na ito ay isa sa mga ‘quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world’ posts, pwes, nagkakamali ka. Masyado nang gasgas yun. At sinasabi ko sa ‘yo, maganda lang yan pakinggan sa simula pero pag hindi ka na makabili ng kape sa Starbucks na dati eh inaaraw-araw mo, babalik ka rin sa corporate world. *evil laugh*

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure”

Review: Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa, Chiang Mai

After two days of exploring the temples of Chiang Mai, the night market, and a whole day of elephant mahout training, my body craved for some rest, and Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa provided the perfect respite.
 
photo courtesy of Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa
The beautifully decorated lobby with distinct Lanna design will greet you upon arrival at Siripanna.
Bright Lanna lanterns adorn the ceiling and were the perfect contrast against the dark wood.
The staff warmly welcomed me with a smile, and I was immediately served rice juice and cold towel while they proceed with the check in procedure.
After handing my room keycard and WiFi login details, the bellhop took care of my bags, and another staff ushered me to my Deluxe Lanna Room.
Beautiful Lanna art!

At 42 square meters (excluding balcony space), to say that the room is huge is an understatement. I think my bed can even comfortably sleep 3 people!

There’s also a daybed where I sometimes do some of my online work.

All rooms have a 32″/40″ LCD TV with cable channels; WiFi/internet access*; bathrobes, slippers, and umbrella; electronic safe; well-stocked mini bar; coffee and tea-making facility; 4 complimentary bottled water per day; and hairdryer.                           Bathroom photo taken with the AEE MagicCam

Undoubtedly, my favorite part of the room was the bathroom.

It has a separate shower room and bathtub, which had sliding window panels, so I can still watch TV while soaking in a hot bubble bath.

They provide plenty of towels, and huge bottles of shampoo and shower gel, too. Don’t you just hate it when hotels expect you to have a bubble bath with just tiny tubes o shower gel/bath foam? It’s ridiculous.

The turndown service was also lovely as well.

Aside from the usual turning down the linens and drawing the curtains, they would also turn on the electronic mosquito repellent and would even leave Thai rice crispies on my bed.

Royal Lanna Villa

 

There are 74 well-appointed guestrooms that guests can choose from including the Royal Lanna Villa pictured above. With 60 square meters of floor space excluding the outdoor terrace (15 square meters), each villa has a spacious bathroom with jacuzzi, separate shower area, and a Thai sala plus all the same amenities as my Deluxe Lana Room’s.

The Royal Lanna Villas are within close proximity to the swimming pool, but the lush foliage ensures guests still get to enjoy their privacy. 

Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner are served at Slee Banyan.

Guests and non-guests can enjoy themed buffest from Monday to Sunday.

Some of my personal favorites are the creamy pumpkin soup, assorted canape, chicken satay, mango lassi, homemade ice cream, and matcha macaron.

A la carte option is also available.

Slee Banyan outdoor garden
 
The resort offers a number of relaxing and educational activities.
 
You can just lounge by the pool area if you’re feeling lazy or have a luxurious treatment at Panna Spa.
Guests can also enroll in a Thai cooking class or try the paddy sprouts planting at their Panna Field. I tried this activity, and it was a fun and nice experience! I saw some kids enjoying themselves, too.
Guests who wish to experience tak bat or the monks alms giving ceremony may also book this activity.
Please take note, though, that you may need to reserve a slot a day in advance for some of these activities.
Signature Siripanna Pool
 
Siripanna’s U-shaped pool is actually designed to symbolize the ancient Mae Ping River in the center of the lost city of Wiang Kum Kam.
Panna Spa

 

Guests who wish to pamper themselves will be pleased with Panna Spa’s huge treatment rooms decked in jewel-toned Lanna fabrics and decor, and fitted with private showers, steam bath and changing rooms to ensure utmost comfort and relaxation.

All products are conceived and developed by Panna Spa ranging from the natural ingredients grown in their garden to the essential oils used for aromatherapy. They even have a whole product range made from pure gold!

They also have a Kids’ Spa for the little ones. 🙂

 

Traditional Thai Lanna house
 
The Thai house is a multi-purpose venue where Siripanna‘s very own chefs conduct Thai cooking classes. Its expansive lawn is also a favorite venue for special events like weddings.
Paddy sprouts planting
Paddy sprouts planting is probably the most unique activity you can do in the resort – especially if you’re a Westerner.
 
Don’t worry about getting dirty because a ‘farmer’s uniform’ and towels are provided. Refreshments are served, too.
 
Chinese family trying out the paddy sprout planting activity

 

Even though the resort is located outside the Old City, getting to the temples or the night market is not a problem because the resort offers complimentary shuttle service scheduled throughout the day. And if the schedule is not convenient for you, you can easily hire a tuk-tuk across the street. These attractions are only a few minutes away anyway.

More than the amenities and facilities, I had a relaxing and enjoyable stay at Siripanna because of the hospitable staff and excellent service. They were always ready to attend to my needs, and were genuinely interested to know how my day was, so I’m not surprised they had lots of returning guests during my 3-day stay with them.

K

 

*rates apply

~~ I was hosted by Siripanna for 2 nights, but all opinions in this review are my own. ~~

36 Rat Uthit Road, Tambon Wat Ket, Amphoe Muang
Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 5337 1999
Twitter: @siripanna

Product Review: AEE MagicCam S51

If there’s one thing I can’t travel without, it would be my camera because I need it to document my trips. (duh!) However, there are times when a DSLR just ain’t fit for the job.

During my recent month-long solo trip around Southeast Asia, I did activities that required me to use both hands or be in or around water, and using my bulky camera was just not an option.

Thankfully, the guys at Visiontec Marketing lent me an AEE MagicCam S51 unit for this trip.

(L) The AEE S51 unit with detachable TFT screen (R) AEE with waterproof casing (up to 100m)

I started my trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I signed up for a one-day elephant mahout training.

The ‘training’ involved feeding the elephants, riding them bare-back through the jungle, and bathing them in the river.

Although the package includes a CD containing photos and video of the training, I still wanted to record the experience from a first-person perspective.

AEE S51 in action with the waterproof casing + head strap
Before we started the activities, I removed the detachable TFT screen from the S51 unit, turned the G-sensor on (auto start/stop ), placed it in the waterproof casing, and finally attached it to the head strap.
The elephant mahout training was such a wonderful and memorable experience for me, so I was very happy that the S51 captured it perfectly.
Here’s a short compilation of the videos during the training; the slow boat ride from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos; and the trip to Kuang Si Waterfalls (also in Luang Prabang).

Thailand-Laos 2014 from Kat Torres Video edited by my nephew, JC Abellar.
Please take note that no color correction/grading was applied during editing. 

Aside from outdoor activities, I also worked on some hotel and resort reviews during the trip.

With the S51’s wide angle lens (and used with a monopod), I was able to get the shots/angles I want especially when in enclosed/small spaces that I wouldn’t have captured otherwise with my DSLR.

And yeah, it’s the perfect companion of a solo traveler because it’s very easy to take selfies. No need to bother other tourists for such triviality.

 

(Clockwise) Petronas Twin Towers as seen from my room at Traders Hotel KL | Selfie at Seminyak Beach, Bali, Indonesia | My bathroom at Villa Maydou, Luang Prabang, Laos | Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak’s pool, Bali, Indonesia
 
AEE App
 
I’m no technophile, so I really appreciate the straightforward push-button functions on the S51. It’s even easier to use with the AEE App.
Simply download the AEE App from the Apple or Play store onto your smartphone or tablet to have real-time control and operation of the S51 through the built-in WiFi. You can then easily download and share/upload your pictures and/or videos to social media.

 

Admittedly, I was not able to fully exploit the capabilities of this camera. I’m sure it can do so much more.
Now that I’m starting to find lugging around the DSLR inconvenient, especially on longer trips, I am seriously looking at investing on an action cam like the AEE S51 because it’s compact and would be a better companion on the road for a variety of activities.
***


For pricing and other inquiries, please contact Johannes Yu of Visiontec Marketing at 781-6731 or visiontec.inc@gmail.com. 

 

Sojourn Snapshots: Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’m heading to Chiang Rai today, and in the next couple of days, I’ll be taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang, Laos. So, before I officially exit Thai soil, let me give you a quick rundown of what I did in Chiang Mai.


Temples

Clockwise: foggy day at Doi Suthep, Wat Chedi Luang, and Buddha inside the viharn of Wat Lok Molee

 

Of course, no trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without visiting its many temples. In the Old City alone, there are already about a dozen – some of which were actually very close to where I first stayed at.

The temples are different from the ones in Bangkok mainly because of its Lanna architecture. But after visiting a handful, they all started to look the same to me.


Night Market & Food Tripping

The Sunday Night Market starts from 5:00 pm until 11:00 pm. The whole Ratchadamnoen Road is closed to traffic and lined with stalls selling everything imaginable. You can buy trinkets for as low as THB10.00; clothes are usually from THB120.00 to THB250.00; and street food, usually from THB20.00 to THB60.00.

 

It was just a bummer that it started raining about 8:00 pm so I had to go back to the guesthouse. Good thing it was literally just a few steps away from the night market.

Don’t worry if your trip doesn’t fall on a weekend. You can just go to Warorot Market. All the merchandise are from there anyway. Also check out the food court. This is where the locals eat.


Elephant Mahout Training

Definitely the highlight of my Chiang Mai trip!
Please excuse my non-existent video editing skills. I probably messed up the resolution.
Recorded using the AEE Magicam

I signed up for a 1-day ‘mahout training’ course at Chang Siam. Sure, the price was hefty but definitely worth it. It’s an amazing experience.
 
Upon arrival, we were provided with our mahout uniforms; briefed about the elephants (eating and sleeping habits etc); taught how to feed them; basic commands on how to mount, move forwards, backwards, sideways, and how to stop.
 
We then had lunch prepared by our trainer, Nong, and shortly began our trek in the jungle. At first it was really scary riding the elephant bareback, but you have to trust yourself and the elephant, and everything will be fine.
After our trek, we bathed them in the river and had so much fun!
 
It’s definitely something you have to try at least once in your life.


Rest & Relaxation

 

After my jam-packed first few days, I wanted some downtime and got just that at Siripanna Villas Resort & Spa. I was welcomed by the lovely staff and management, and treated to a sumptuous dinner buffet at their Slee Banyan Restaurant.

The room and facilities were superb! They even have a working rice field where guests can try rice planting. I tried it too!

 

K