Sunday, May 22, 2016

Touring The Old World

              

I know it’s been a long time since my last update. I just haven’t had any time to write lately, and mostly I don’t know what to write about! So for now I just wanted to give you all an update on where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and my new direction in life.

Recently I have begun to try out different methods of traveling. One such method being small guided tours. I usually travel alone, but I have been feeling rather lonesome lately and I figured this would be a great way for me to experience a different culture and meet new people along the way. I stumbled upon a company called original world while doing some cultural research for one of my travels, and I decided right then and there that I was going to give group touring a try. I can say with certainty that I don’t regret the experience one bit.   Anyway, I recently took a tour of Eastern Europe with original world. They offer world cultural tours to many would be and experienced travers such as myself. I got to see some amazing places, such as Kopaonik park, which was one of the places on my travel visit list. Since original worlds focus is on educational and performance/cultural tourism, we went to a lot of UNESCO heritage sites, museums, and parks. We also were able to see a lot of dance and tribal performances, My favorite of which was the Khajuraho dance festival in northern India. Although I did that one on a customized group tour so there weren’t as many people with me. I actually prefer the smaller groups since I can be a little shy around big groups of people.

But I’d have to say that as far as world tours go I was very impressed. Original World tends to favor local guides sourced from private companies, and they set their own itineraries.  So far I have taken 3 of their multi day group tours. The first tour I went on they actually gave me a small discount since my flight was delayed. I thought that was really considerate of them.

I am currently considering trying their southeast Asia tour that covers Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.  But I’ve heard that this isn’t the best time of the year to go due to heavy rains and flooding of certain temple areas.

Well that all I have for now. I will try to keep this site more up to date in future.





TRAVEL ROUND - UP: A Dozen Memorable Combo Trips For 2012!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda


Flights and Ferry / Road Trips could well be the central themes of my 2012 Travel Round Up! But while it is easy to say that the first half of the year from January to June was filled with flights around the United States, Singapore, Germany, Indonesia,  United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Philippines and the second half from July to December is full of road trips around the country, separating the two is not always possible. Many a times I have to fly to get to the destination and while there I get the most of the place by going on a ferry or road trips. So, in the same fashion as the ubiquitous offerings for "combo meals" or "complete meals", here's my 12 Memorable Combo Trips in chronology as entry to the Pinoy Travel Blog Carnival for the month of December.


United States of America (North America)
Combo 1. Fly to NJ (USA) then Road Trip Around PA (USA)                                To See Life's Simulated Journey Destinations 
After taking a Luftansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Newark, New Jersey, I welcomed 2012 with the thrill of seeing the historic New Year Eve's Ball dropping from the flagpole atop the historic Times Square in New York City. But since it was my fifth round in the Big Apple, a road trip around Pennsylvania was in order, not only because of its relatively  short distance travel from New Jersey where I was staycationing, but also because this State of Independence has it all - from birth  to living life to the fullest to death destinations!  My first weekend was spent around Philadelphiaa place where the United States began to take shape and getting its nickname "the cradle of America". Then I traveled to Hershey for mouth-watering journey to enjoy life's sweetest pleasure - chocolates! But as every good things end, my final destination in this "Chocolate State" was in Gettysburg, a place where "more men fell than in any other battle fought in North America before or since".  This scene of carnage, however, became a symbol of sacrifice of the 51,000 soldiers buried there and an inspiration to the living, when President Abraham Lincoln delivered the well-known "Gettysburg Address"
Combo 2.Fly to Salt Lake City then Road Trip Around Utah (USA)                                To Experience Winter Haven Destinations
Being the only airport in Utah, I arrived in Salt Lake City aboard a United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey. But since it was my fourth trip in the capital and the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the many LDS-related sites like the Temple Square, decided to take a road trip to the home of the "greatest snow on earth" - Southern Utah! The trip took me more than 4 hours of combo car and shuttle rides, which to date was the longest winter journey I ever had but it was so worth it! Snow jumping, making snow angel, shoveling for fun, being a snow bunny whenever I see the velvety snow while going around Long Valley Junction, Alton, Cedar City and Duck Creek - ah, the experiences I will never forget!    

United Kingdom (Europe)
Combo 3. Fly to Heathrow, London then Road Trip Around Greater London For A Glimpse Of The Olympic Destinations 
As a first timer who did my homework, I knew that Greater London, England has so many attractions I want to see - Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, to name a few. But with only a full 24 hours on this England's capital in a spread of two days, my toughest decision was, what to do first? I got my bearings inside the London Tubes, or what Londoners call the Underground Rail Network or the subway (thanks to my friend Cath Iblan!). And although I am not good at commuting (and could hardly remember directions), I had a fun experience and smooth journey aboard the tubes and have seen the treasures this 2012  Olympic Games' host has to offer! 
Combo 4.Fly to Heathrow, London then Road Trip To Lincoln and York England  For  Two Days Out In History 
On board the Virgin Atlantic Airways, I have flown to Heathrow, London instead of Humberside Airport, a small international airport situated where my nephew's family lives. This decision allowed me to experience the hospitality and luxury of the youngest fleet in the world while exercising a Leap Of Faith  traveling for 5 hours at night to a new destination without a cellphone! In the end, I had much - awaited reunion with nephew at a place that didn't disappointKingston Upon Hull, famed because of its longest suspension bridge, is only an hour or two away from old cities for a day out in history! My host Steven (and Juris) drove me to the City of Lincoln to climb and get breathtaking views of the city from the 900 year-old Cathedral and Lincoln Castle (in picture) dating back to 1068. The second day, we went to the City of York, England  where I've seen, heard, felt and climbed the Medieval, Roman and Viking England of yesterday!

Philippines - Mindanao (Asia)


Combo 5. Fly To Dipolog Then Road Trip To Dapitan and Katipunan                 For A Travel Like Our National Hero 
Still awed about Dr. Jose Rizal's travel around Singapore and London and wanting to be one of the 100 pilgrims to complete the 27 sites in the Lakbay Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail, I flew over Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte with my two brothers Mike and Joel aboard Cebu Pacific Airlines. After a visit to the Dipolog Cathedral we beat the clock to ride the last bus to Katipunan, which is home to Rizal's Farm. It was a lovely experience seeing the more than a 100 years old mango tree and meeting the 96 years old Crisostomo Eguia Sr., son of Rizal's student, who now owns the farm. The following day we took a road trip to Dapitan and got to know more the life in exile and the making of a national hero! 


Combo 6.Fly to Iloilo then Ferry to Bacolod and Road Trip To San Carlos City and Ferry To Sipaway Island For Island Discovery
In May, I culminated the Visayas Leg of Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail with a flight to Iloilo aboard Air Philippines. After checking off two-must sees in relation to Rizal, I ferried to Bacolod City  and scored a cheap but nice accommodation with swimming pool while in the area. The next day we had a unique  CERES Road Trip bound to San Carlos City, crossroad city being in the middle of four major cities in the Visayas - Cebu City, Bacolod City, Iloilo City and Dumaguete CityFor some wet fun,  we took an 15 - minute journey on an outrigger boat and a  short tricycle ride to Sipaway Island, geographically  known as Refugio Island.At the Whispering Palm Island Resort we breathed in fresh mountain air, enjoyed a dip on its cool water, felt its white sand and feasted on the beautiful tropical sights for onlyPhp 300 inclusive of a day tour entrance and lunch! 


Combo 7.Fly to Cebu then Ferry / Road Trip To Dumaguete                              and Siquijor Island For "Mystery It's More Fun In The Philippines" Tour
Dumaguete is the capital and largest city of the Province of Negros Oriental, which I visited for the umpteenth time by flying direct from Manila. This year, I gained access to this gem through combo trips - by land (flying to Bacolod City and taking a Ceres bus) and by sea (flying to Cebu and jettying across Sibulan, Negros Occidental). The combo trips do not end there though. Since Dumaguete is a principal seaport, I used it as a jump off point to Siquijor where I've got my much - needed break away and relaxation amid stunning and picturesque surroundings. Also, I was able to check off my 64th (out of the 80) province of the Philippines

(Bonus: I finished at No. 65 in the Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail while my brother Joel was No. 66 and my brother Mike at No. 77!)

New Zealand (Oceania)


Combo 8. Fly to Auckland the Road Trip To Hamilton Then To Hobbiton        For A Magical Journey To Middle Earth 
This year, heaven's conspired to  let me check off my so-called Pacific Triangle Dream by being in New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Thanks to an invite for a lawyers' conference in Hamilton and for a promo fare on Jetstar from Singapore to Auckland! And because it is my first time in this dream destination, I naturally had a dizzying amount of places to go in my itinerary! I let loosed of my inner child by conquering Middle Earth in Hobbiton, and then beckoned its beautiful scenery and wide range of fantastic attractions while snapping some pictures I  listed as  My 7 Super Shots of New ZealandRead below to know three (3) must - takes road trips around the country "last settled by humans"...
Combo 9.From Hamilton Road Trip To Waitomo                                                      For A Scenic Travel  and Easy Caving
After experiencing the unique beauty of Hamilton, I went on a joyride with my friend Helen to experience scenic country roads, peaceful surroundings and anything that glows!  The trip took us through prime Waikato farmland, to Otorohanga to meet New Zealand’s national symbol - kiwi and finally to our main destination - Waitomo (or water hole). Call it the cave region of New Zealand! It was amazing to be inside Waitomo Caves with its subterranean splendor decorated with stalactites, stalagmites and glow-worms in its natural, un-altered state.  Yet, the caves are surprisingly easy to walk through with its with  well-paved roads, making the caves enjoyable even by kiddos!


Combo 10. Fly to Auckland Then Road Trip To New Plymouth                                 For A Garden And Parks Experience Like No Other
My attraction favorite in a new destination is easy: immersing myself in nature for free! Yes FREE - and my post Top 10 Highlights in New Plymouth would show you that was just what I've got in the most liveable city in New Zealand and the best small city in the world! As my new love destination, New Plymouth boasts of  having in its soil the almost perfect cone Mount Taranaki or Mt. Edgmont, parks with beautiful scenery and gardens worthy of celebration! At Pukekura Park, I walked along trails through the inner-city botanical wonderland and discovered a lake, zoo, tea house, waterfalls, playground, viewing deck, and this iconic poet's bridge! Then I wandered inside the beautifully landscaped Tupare Garden sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, climbed up to Paritutu Centennial Park for a breathtaking view of the mount and the sea, and the list goes on until maybe 245 parks and reserves and counting...
Combo 11.Fly to Auckland then Road Trip Around                                                       and To North Shore To Get To Know The Place
While in Auckland and its nearby North Shore, I found excitement and exhilaration around every corner of this coveted  largest urban area in New Zealand. I first got my culture and history fixes inside the Auckland War Memorial Museum where I submerged myself in the large collection of Maori and Pacific Island artifacts, treasures, carvings, largest collection of applied and decorative arts in New Zealand and aextensive permanent exhibition covering wars including a war canoe. Outside, I brought out my  camera and snapped pictures as we circled around this iconic building doubling as museum and war memorial and perfectly located in the middle of a garden! For some more natural scenery, I sampled the many bays and beaches open everyday for FREE like the Mairangi Bay, a facility just a stone's throw away from my friend's house and Long Bay Regional Park, a popular destination where I enjoyed the sweeping expanse of sand, sea, sun and super fun photo ops with my young friends - Pen and Moe!.  

Singapore & Indonesia (Asia)


Combo 12. Fly to Singapore then Ferry/Road Trip Around                        Batam, Indonesia For An Exploratory  Trip
From Auckland, I flew back to Singapore on Jetstar. But since it was my fifth stint in the Lion City, I braved travelingl solo to Batam, Indonesia, one of the 18,000 plus islands of Indonesia and the largest of the 3,000 islands of Riau Archipelago. This industrial hub is only 50 minutes south of Singapore and easily and cheaply accessible by ferries for only Php 1,550 round trip! At the Batam Centre International Ferry Terminal my adventure started with hiring a taxi service to get the most of my 2 - day stay. BaRelang Bridge  is Indonesia's bridge system that connects the three islands of Batam, Rempang and Galang  where the bridge name was coined from.  It is a chain of six (6) various types of bridges, the most popular of which is the cable-styled bridge that connects BATAM and Tonton Island and locally called as Tengku Fissabilillah. Many tourists and street vendors come together on the bridge for a nice photo session while tasting Batam's street food. So did I!




This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December 2012 with the theme 2012: This Year In Travel, which for the first time is being co-hosted by two travel bloggers - Gay Mitra - Emami (hot momma with combo surnames!) and Regine Camille Garcia (a first timer blog carnival host with combo first names)! Check out the previous blog carnival topics in Estan Cabigas' Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sporty Chronicles For Coco Cravings...

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda




Alright. This is my first post for the month of November! Have I stopped traveling with my princess? Well, no! Fact is, I have been on the road every single day until now! What have we been up to?  Anything coconut.





Yes, the coconut bug hit my princess.  Not only she discovered the health benefits of virgin coconut oil which she began taking recently, but her November calendar is filled with all things coconut. From meeting her US client who is very interested and ready to order some virgin coconut oil from the Philippines to inspecting the manufacturing plant in Laguna to look into the business in a meaningful way to seeing up close and personal the coconut plantation in Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon Province and to meeting the farmers to understand costs of raw materials and dig into the business more deeply, I surely would go nuts with all these schedules (if I were not a toy!).



Well, my princess seems to be handling things so well esp. with Red driving us around and assisting her in the business. He even decided to resign from his job when my princess' driver resigned to work abroad. But there's one thing that actually made my princess go nuts - finding that all her pictures were erased from Red's cellphone camera! (main reason she hasn't blogged for so long!)



To cheer her up, Red brought my princess to Coconut House  located inside the Quezon City Memorial Circle (near the Commonwealth Entrance). Aww, there was everything coconut, even an ice cream hut filled with non-dairy (coconut milk) ice cream and sherbets (sorbetes). Inside, the menu is interestingly coconut too - from pampagana (desserts), tanghap (short for tanghalian and hapunan or lunch and dinner in English) to binalot.


My princess sampled the pansit buko (noodles made of young coconut strips) and a buko dessert sampler consisting of ice cream, suman with coconut syrup dip and buko salad.    There is also a small section in the resto dedicated to coconut products like virgin coconut oil (VCO), wine (lambanog), coconot soysauce, soaps, shampoos, coconut sugar, vinegar, coconut hats, bags, and my fave coconut skim milk.

At least for a moment, my princess forgot about the pictures and went nuts with coconuts. Why not? - After all it is the "miracle fruit" from the so-called "Tree of Life".


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sporty Chronicles: Hacienda Luisita

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda


Luisita Interchange entrance from San Miguel, Tarlac City
On our way back to Manila from Pangasinan, I jumped for joy when we found ourselves traversing the San Miguel / Luisita Interchange of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), the longest highway in the Philippines. Thanks to my princess' Red knight, who couldn't find the SCTex Tarlac City Interchange entrance, for this chanced travel which I recorded in my Sporty Chronicles!

Luisita Interchange exit to Manila
The Luisita Interchange is one of the eleven (11) exits starting from Subic in the south and ending in Tarlac City in the north of the 94-kilometer SCTex that connects the Subic Bay Freeport, the Clark Freeport, and Tarlac CityOf all the 11 exits of the SCTEx,  the Luisita Interchange is said to be the only one that directly leads to private property - the Hacienda Luisita.



The Hacienda Luisita is a  6,435 - hectare sugar plantation  owned by the Cojuangco family, which includes the late former President Corazon C. Aquino and her son, our incumbent President Benigno S. Aquino III.  This huge piece of real estate housed the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, one of the largest sugar refinery in the Philippines.  The controversy involving this manufacturing plant and the workers that escalated into the so - called Hacienda Luisita Massacre was used against Pres. Noynoy during his campaign and is still an issue hounding his presidency.



From the San Miguel entrance, I noticed a signage that tells me what inside this (in)famous piece of real estate other than the Central Azucarera de Tarlac. There is Microtel Inn and Suites, Luisita Industrial Park, Luisita Business Park, Las Haciendas de Luisita which  housed the five (5) residential villages named after the second generation Cojuanco sisters: Carmen, Corazon, Josefine, Pacita and Teresita, a Spanish-Mexican inspired multi-purpose Haciendas de Luisita Clubhouse consisting of a sports complex, community clubhouse, function room, swimming pool,  and picnic area, the Luisita Golf and Country Club, and the Central Techno Park.


From where I sit, I enjoyed one smooth, free-flowing, green ride, unlike when we used to drive along Mabalacat Road amidst the traffic and smoke. No doubt, this gift of greenery during travel is brought about by the direct connection of the Luisita Interchange to the Central Techno Park of Hacienda Luisita. This connection, however, has spawned several controversies. Claimants said that the payment to the Cojuangco's of P83 million by the government for the 83 hectares road right-of-way was not only overpriced (Php 100 per square meter where the then on-going rate was only Php 6 per square meter) but also unusual because normally the property owners (who wish to have exits from the highway to their private properties) are the ones who pay the government for these exits (since having the exits increases the value of their private properties). 


Well, I do not know whose claim is right and as a puppy who loves to bark, I  can only hope and pray to these huge santo (carved wooden images of saints at the San Miguel entrance), that the attackers will not bark on the wrong tree!    

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sporty Chronicles: The First Saga...NUVALI

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda



They call me Sporty not only because of my athletic, outdoor, grumpy bulldog looks but primarily because I ride in my caregiver's Isuzu Sportivo which had been my home since I joined the family about two years ago. Unlike the hundred others of my type who are left in the house, I felt really blessed to be always going around - bringing kiddos to school, taking her to office and accompanying her in all her travels around Luzon - north to south. From where I sit, I have a real good view of our destination and can easily share my thoughts about the place with my caregiver, but...





I never have those intimate moments or close encounters with my princess the way I wanted, not because she doesn't care about me, but because she is amaxophobic or afraid of sitting in the driver's or front passenger's seat of the car. She just settled at the backseat (sometimes doing the backseat driving eh) and let me alone with the driver and anyone who loves sitting in front, to be appreciated. Sensing how lonesome I was, seven year - old Kyle gave me Aussie Sasha for a companion. But...


Sasha's touches are not as "hot" as my princess. Then Red came. He is like a knight in shining armor, who had turned my princess' world around and affected me too in a positive way. He is an old flame, who on their first day of meeting after 20 years, has swept her off her feet. He drives and she was inspired to overcome her phobia. Since then, she always look forward to going on a road trip and enjoy eating her favorite dimsum - pork siomai and siopao - while we drive. Because Red's house is in Sta. Rosa Heights (15 minutes from Tagaytay) on Tagaytay-Silang Road, we always passed by Nuvali. I was all smiles and can't help telling Sasha how cool it is to have a place like that where eco-living to the highest level is possible. On a personal side, having my caregiver that close felt so good - someone who caress me once in awhile as she giggled seeing the nice view and holding me tight when fear seeps in with Red's driving. It was all good and...

It ushered the start of my many travels... my happy, fun, Sporty Chronicles! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

"START BEING" Monday Series: NATURAL

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

NATURAL.( i.e. characterized by spontaneity and freedom from artificiality, affectation, or inhibitions; not altered, treated, or disguised; faithfully representing nature or life) I am always myself when I'm with Red. 




YOUR LOVE MERRY ANN

Music & Lyrics by Red Isidro



All my hopes and dreams were washed away

All my faith in God has turned to grey
But when I see your eyes, they all came back to me


But when I see your face, they all came back to me



All the laughters and joys have vanished away

The colors of the rainbow have faded away
But when I see you smile, you brought back happiness
When I hear you laugh you brighten up my day

Chorus:

Your love Merry Ann has brought me back to my feet
Your love Merry Ann has wiped away all my tears
When I see your eyes, when I see your face
By the touch of your hand and when I kiss your lips


All the rooms were empty, dim and cold
All the lights were out, I can’t see my faults
But when you hold my hand, I was lost but now I’m found
And when I feel your sweet caress, I feel I’m home again




*This is part of a series of 2012 Monday post inspired by Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant's Stop DoingStart Being article on Family Circle Magazine April 1, 2005 issue. What she said about having so many "to-do" list and trying hard everyday to check off the list hit so close to home! I agree with her that what I need is a list to help me be who I want to be, both for myself and others. Click on START BEING Monday Series to see other list of cool virtues we could emulate!


Lakbayan Philippines Grade


My Lakbayan grade is A!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

Trotting The Globe

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I've been to 660 cities in 26 countries
Mhe-Anne is an explorer that:
does their own thing
doesn't mind roughing it
lives on the edge
Travel cred: high
I rank in the top...
0.1% most cities visited - Philippines
0.1% most cities visited - Brunei Darussalam
0.1% most cities visited - Asia

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