Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bitter about Mexico

I really had zero idea what Mexico would be like when I decided to go;  I did not expect how amazing it would be.

Mexico is gorgeous!   Peppered with amazing gigantic Catholic churches.  I cannot even begin to describe how beautiful the interiors of the churches are.  I am at a lost of words.  The most beautiful church I have ever seen was the Sto. Domingo Church in Oaxaca.  It was like the artist got really angry and thought, you want Baroque?! you want Baroque!? I'll give you Baroque.  BAM!  Every square inch of the church was decorated with bas relief.  Very ridiculous.

I've heard a few times from travelers that we look a bit like México and I guess there is some truth to that; some small towns I have been to, do look like provinces in Philippines.  Both our countries have been colonies of Spain; we are bound to look somehow alike.

But no... Mexico City... and I am specifically talking about Centro de Historico.  It is SO GRAND.  SO GIGANTIC.  SO AMAZING. Surrounded by the Ayuntamiento or some sort of Municipio de Gobierno and a church.

I may not have been to Europe but being there felt like I was.  It was so old and beautiful, it's grand and extravagant, it's majestic and almost magical.

Let's not just talk just Mexico City, what about Puebla?  Puebla has approximately 365 churches within the city, that's 1 church every day of the year and none of them are ordinary, one trying to out do the next. Here are just the few I saw in 2 days:

Looking at Mexico as whole, I feel bitter.  My first thought was: Hey!  We were under Spain for 300 years too, why didn't we get better architectures?  grander churches?  Nice ones we had were destroyed in World War II and Manila became the second most destroyed city in the world (after Warsaw, Poland).

I imagine how beautiful Manila could have been with all the Spanish colonial buildings and plazas.  Have you ever been anywhere else that have made you feel this way about your country?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Interesting Useless Travel Stats

This blog post is inspired by wanderlass' post of her #useless #interesting RTW Stats, I have decided to do the same with my trip.

Statistics are indeed fun!  Especially useless ones, so here are some of mine.

Number of Countries: 2
Number of Days traveled: 90
Number of Kilometers traveled: 38,067 (23,655 miles)
Number of States: 11 US + 6 MX = 17 States
Number of Cities:  17 US + 8 MX = 25 Cities
Number of Pyramids: 9
Number of Plane Rides: 13
Number of Bus Rides: 13
Number of Photos Taken:  6401 both camera and mobile
Number of Balikbayan Boxes: 2
Number of Diarrhea: 0
Number of Dysmenorrhea: 3, TMI haha
Number of New Facebook Friends: 51
Number of USD spent: USD 9000

Favorite Experience:  Dia De Los Muertos in Oaxaca
Favorite City:  Mexico City
Favorite Landscape:  Grand Canyon, Arizona
Favorite Cityscape: Chicago
Favorite Beach:  Tulum Ruins, Tulum
Favorite Bus Company:  ADO Bus - Mexico
Favorite Museum:  Museo Nacional de Arceologico
Favorite Pyramid: Coba
Favorite Metro System:  New York
Favorite Beer:  Blue Moon Beer from Colorado
Favorite Shopping:  New York & San Cristobal de las Casas
Favorite Church:  Sto. Domingo, Oaxaca
Favorite Cellphone App:  Google Maps
Favorite Hostel: Hostal Zocalo - Merida
Best Pork: Pulled Pork - Franklin's BBQ Austin, TX
Best Burger:  Hamburgesa de RibEye - Asadero in Mexico City
 Best Fries:  In and Out, Los Angeles
Best Seafood: BBQ Shrimp - Bourbon House, New Orleans, LA
Best Vegetable:  Road side Sweet Corn - Pawtucket, RI
Best Looking Men:  Washington, DC
Most Interesting Experience:  Rode the bus of the Mexican Marines
Friendliest People:  NOLAns (New Orleans, LA)
Drunkest Place:  Bourbon St., New Orleans
Scariest Area:  Tenderloin, San Francisco
Least Favorite Hostel:  H.I. International Downtown SF
Most Expensive:  USD20 Vodka Redbull in Las Vegas
Failed Expectation:  White House, Washington DC - it's so small!

Did I miss anything that you were interested to know? :)  Ask away!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lifestyle of a Solo Traveler

I just got back after my 3 month long trip; I am now back to the regular programming of my life (and actually writing this blog post from my office table) and I reminisce the difference of lifestyle!  So here is my list:

  • Waking up late with no pressure
  • Choosing white rice over brown
  • White bread over wheat
  • Meeting new people that you will prally never see again
  • Making new meaningful friendships
  • laying on my bed before having a shower
  • Miss brushing my teeth before I sleep
  • Get into bed without washing my feet
  • Dont require my chiropractor all the time
  • Walk, walk, walk
  • Waking up with no purpose
  • Caring about no one else but yourself
  • Skipping breakfast because I can eat lunch at 4 or whenever I want to
  • Start drinking alcohol at 11am
  • Learning how to adjust to different kind of beds and pillows
  • Learn how to do laundry
  • Waking up and having to fix the bed *couchsurfing
  • Cleaning up after myself
  • Constant awareness of my passport, cellphone and wallet
  • Mastering Google maps
  • Carrying my bag up and down the friggin stairs by myself
  • I guess I complain alot less too
  • changing my mind at the last moment and it doesn't matter
  • Not having to do anything else but what you want
  • Sharing bathrooms
  • Speaking bad Spanish mixed with excellent miming skills
  • Still cant live with no internet
I look forward to this lifestyle again soon.  So many places, so little time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My First Impressions of Mexico City

Ideally for my blog, I should write my first impressions of all the cities I have been to; but since I only write when I feel compelled to, I only write once in a while hehe.  So without further ado, here are my first impressions of Mexico City.

Architectures are awesome.  I guess architecture is really one thing that impresses me the most while traveling (this comes second to food).  The churches, government buildings or just random buildings are just BEAUTIFUL.  I find myself breathless when I enter a church.  I have been into approximately 30 churches in this trip and 80% of the time I am just shaking my head in disbelief of how beautiful the structures are.  It's like the artists gone crazy and art just exploded onto the walls.

Sometimes I see the buildings like they are superheroes.  They are so special and yet they are living and existing amongst normal buildings!  You will be walking through a random ally and BAM!  there's a beautiful building not even mentioned in any kind of guidebook.  I feel a little bitter when I walk around Mexico, especially when I see the churches.  It makes me really sad to remember and realize even more that Manila was indeed the 2nd most destroyed city in the world after WW2; otherwise, we would look just like Mexico.

Contradictions and mixing of opposing cultures.  You see sooo many churches but outside you will see people reading tarots or cleansing your aura among other stuff; or celebrating practices that are very non-Catholic, for instance Dia Delos Muertos.  Another example is that you'll see so many bridal shops around, especially near churches which shows the strong influence of the Catholic tradition but also nearby you will see adult shops that are open and not obscured. 

First World.  Third World.  Some things about Mexico make you feel like you're in a first world country.  Such as their super awesome intercity bus system, museums, and architectures--they are organized and well maintained; but also at the same time, there are parts that are so third world like pot holes in highways, noisy street vendors, local crazy buses, and sometimes inefficient store clerks.  The third world part I can most definitely relate to the Philippines lol.

Not a lot of beggars.  Mentioning above that it is a third world country, there really aren't a lot of beggars.  Kids who come near you are usually just selling you stuff.  People are just always selling things which is great!  I think I have seen more beggars in the US than I have here in Mexico.

Huge parks everywhere.  I love the abundance of parks around Mexico!  They are always clean, well lit and beautifully maintained. Sometimes I would just sit and watch people walk or sit around the park and once in a while shaking my head no to vendors trying to sell me stuff; I love how locals also utilize their parks, they would meet up or hangout there with family, friends, and lovers.  How I wish my lifestyle back in Manila includes "hanging around the park" and not worry about getting robbed or getting my clothes all dirty.

PDA or Public Display of Affection.  You will definitely see couples PDAing at the park; but the thing is, you see them EVERYWHERE!  I tell you, everywhere.  You will see a girl sitting on her bf's lap, you will see shameless necking, kissing, ass slapping, caressing, hugging, touching and some romantic lovin'.  

Foods look the same.  Yes, I do not speak Spanish and I do not always know how to read the menu, but so far, everything I have been eating looks the same!  They all look like tacos!  Meat on some kind of tortilla, sopa, bread, or taco. haha don't get me wrong, i love it!  they just look all the same to me. lol.

W.C. or toilets.  I appreciate very much the abundance of toilets around the cities.  When in need of a lavatory, just raise your head up and look for the WC signs and you're home free.  They are almost always clean and smell clean too.  They will provide you will tissue paper upon entering after you have paid the usual amount of MXN 5 (~PHP 20).  Sometimes if there is no attendant, the toilet is gated, like how it is in Metro stations, you drop a MXN5 in and you can go through the gate.

Gowns and costumes.  You could definitely tell that Mexicans love to dress up.  You'll see men in Mariachi clothes, women in gowns, or kids in costumes.  They seem to go hand in hand with celebrations and there are a lot of celebrations here in Mexico!  You will never be bored here.  Mexicans KNOW celebration.

Tourism.  There are definitely a lot of tourists in Mexico!  Why not?  This place is awesome!  But they have for sure, not reached their full potential yet.  You will notice that signs and captions in archaeological zones are usually only in Spanish and English.  Mostly the tourists here are from Europe and Latin American countries, I sometimes feel so out of place because most of the tourists speak Spanish.  Not much Asians (just mostly Japanese).  American tourists are scarce outside of Cancun (area), I guess it's all those negative propaganda in the US on how dangerous Mexico is and etc.  but the truth is, if you stay away from the borders (where the cartels are), it's very safe.  I have never feared for my safety in my 5 weeks here.

So many bookstores.  There are so many bookstores around here!!!  Both old and new, brand new or second hand books!  Not just books but magazines!  So much magazines too!!!  I guess Mexican people fond of reading.

Ridiculously difficult wifi password.  I don't get this at all! Almost all wifi passwords that I have to ask for are ridiculously long and difficult to remember!!!  Talk about security.  No one is ever going to be able to just guess what the wifi password is.  It is almost always alpha numeric and a dozen character long or something.  Crazy.

*These are just my observations and opinions based on my experience and no way saying my words are gospel.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A trick in the book that worked

I was talking to my new friend Becky, my room mate in my hostel in Tulum about how great it is here in Mexico.  I cannot describe the feeling I have when I am here.  I remember arriving in Cancun from Austin and I was just smiling at the fact that I am in Mexico; 2 weeks in and it still makes me smile for no reason at all.

We've all heard of tourist scams from everywhere and I have always been vigilant about this.  I have friend who has been scammed before and I guess you could say I know one when I see one.  So today in Merida, I have been here for exactly 5 hours now and I just got scammed.  I am happy to report though, that I have survived to tell the tale.

I arrived and was mesmerized by Yucatan.  The city of Merida was alot prettier than what I expected it to be.  It is colorful and it's like a movie set.  It is how I imagined a Mexican town would look like, low Spanish colonial style buildings, churches, and parks.

I took a walk and stood at a corner taking photos, looking very much like a tourist, and was just taking Merida in when a man came to me (when the story starts with "when a man came to me..." it's kind of a sign the story isn't gonna be good) and gave me a brochure of the schedule of events for the Mayan Festival.

I knew in me that I had to be careful but I also gave goodness of nature a chance and so I started talking to the guy who gave me so much information.  He was being really nice to me and I thought to myself, he's a bit too nice but take advantage of whatever info he could give me.  So I asked him if he wanted to have coffee so he can give me advice on how I should go about my travel from Yucatan to Chiapas.  We were sitting in the restaurant and he was writing down tips and giving me recommendations of things to do and where to go.

I was suspicious of the guy so I tried and took a photo of him with my camera just to see how he would react.  I thought, if he reacted negatively towards me taking a photo of him then he probably is up to no good.  He even thanked me and asked me to tag him on facebook and asked me to add him on FB! Hey we even took a photo together!

He also started talking about Dengue fever which I am not a stranger to.  He told me that there is a strain of dengue in Mexico right now that is really bad that there's this natural fiber that helps ward off the mosquitoes.   I thought, this would make sense since Citronella is a plant and it could possibly be a similar kind of plant that would shoo away mosquitoes.  He said I should get a shawl and a hammock of a material called Sishal.  He admitted that it is a little bit expensive but I have to think that it was a small amount of money instead of getting sick.  I guess this is the trick in the book that actually worked on me, since I was a sick-y kid.  I have had dengue 3x in my life and I guess I didn't wanna be sick in Mexico without my family and gullibe-y agreed to go to the store and buy those 2 things.

Long story short, it was a 20 minute sales talk about hammocks and shawls and Sishal fabric and they wanted to get MXP 1400 out of the 2 things.  I said this is too much and finally got them down to MXP 1000.  I thought to myself, if these fibers would keep me from getting dengue, I thought, hey, PHP3300 isn't too much money.  So after the purchase, I really didn't feel that bad but I kept thinking about it as I walked to the bus station to get my tickets for tomorrow.

Luckily, there is a tourist information booth over there and I was just asking about the routes of the bus and stuff like that and while carrying the heavy hammock, I asked if she's heard of Sishal fabric.  She told me that there is no such thing as Sishal fabric and when she saw my hammock she said it was just ordinary cotton.  My mind just went blank for 2 seconds and I said, I want to return this, what should I do?

She asked me to go to the Municipio de Gobierno and go to the Tourist Information Office and they will ask a tourist police to come with me to the place and TRY to get my money back.  It took about 15 minutes of waiting until the police came and we started walking to the place again.  The people who worked at the store was definitely a bit surprised that I came back with a police.  I think there was a little bit of an effort to deny that I actually bought my stuff there because they asked me for a receipt (which I stupidly did not ask for; I just wanted to get the purchase done with).  I said, I do not want trouble, I just want my money back; then I remembered that I gave them a signed 20 Philippine Peso for their collection on their glass cases and showed it to the police.  At that time, one of the staff or owner just took 1000 peso out of the box and gave it back to me.  Whew!

If am really lucky that I got my money back with no trouble at all plus the Yucatan Tourist Office were really helpful. I would probably have gone back to the place and nicely ask them back for a refund and make up some lame story that I lost my money blah blah I am so glad that I didn't have to do this; I guess what they did to me was technically not illegal.  They did give me products and didn't just take my money.  I would have probably let it go if it were really a real fabric that'd protect me from mosquitoes, but I guess oh well.  Lesson learned!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Standard Self Introduction

I did not have any luck requesting for couches in Chicago; it was a blessing in disguise because I got to book a really really nice hostel in Wicker Park.  When you stay in hostels or i guess meeting new people when traveling in general, its an inevitable fact that you will be introducing yourself over and over again.

I get a knack when people try to guess where I am from.  When people hear me talk, they couldn't quite figure out where I'm from.  I've been told a few times that I sound like I'm from Latin America, twice as Californian; and was onced stopped to be interviewed at the grocery store and asked if i were Hawaiian.

People can tell I am Chinese.  My looks sometimes work against me because people just assume I don't speak English and don't bother starting a conversation with me.  But when they do talk to me, I tell them "I am Chinese born and raised in the Philippines!"

There are a lot of perks being a Filipino-Chinese.  On our Chinese side, we tend to do well in business and learned how to speak Chinese.  Then on our Filipino side, we grew up with the Filipino culture which taught us how to be hospitable, how to have fun, overall Filipino niceness and kindness, but most of all, learning how to speak fluent English.  Although sometimes it is tough because we are always never Chinese enough nor Filipino enough.

On the other hand, you speak to a person who has never met a Filipino (which is odd, everyone would at least know 1 Filipino, we're everywhere! haha) or does not know anything about the Philippines, they are surprised that we speak good English; then I'd say "English is an official language together with Filipino.  Our news, newspaper, radio, school, textbooks are all in English, even movies don't have subtitles."

So they then ask me how many languages I speak so I explain 5, I learn 4 languages at the same time when I was younger then learned Korean when I was an exchange student in the University.

If the person I talk to is even more interested, here comes my geeky tour guide side and start talking about the history of the Philippines! haha  I really enjoy it! "333 years under the Spanish, 2 years under the British in between, the Americans came shortly after we won our independence from Spain, then Japanese came in for 3 years, then Americans came back which in total spent 48 years in our country.  Or in short, 300 years in the convent and 50 years in hollywood!  I could go on and on and on...

This is also where I explain that the Filipino language has 20,000 borrowed words and they would be so surprised when I tell them that we tell time of day, days of the week, month of the year and so many daily nouns  in Spanish!  Even our greeting is derrived from Spanish!

It's really cool that I get to introduce myself, my heritage, and my country (This is especially effective for me to personally promote the Philippine tourism which I am passionate about) over and over again.  I haven't grown tired of it yet!  I actually enjoy it.  It makes me realize how proud I am to be both Chinese and Filipino.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Doppelganger

It was my first long haul flight, how I wished that I would be seated beside someone cool; if not cool, at least tolerable, not a crying baby, nor a chatty grandparent, nor someone who has bad breath.

On the plane, i was seated beside 2 Chinese people, a guy on my left with his dad and a girl on my right.  I've watched a few movies and was kind of getting bored with no one to talk to.  The first meal  was being served, I overeard the girl beside me spoke with the attendant in English (even though she was watching Chinese movie on her screen) so I initiated a conversation.

I found out that she is a Chinese Language teacher from Beijing, she is the only child and is married with no kids yet.  She used to be a Chinese teacher in Arkansas for 3 years and is now heading to New York to study for a year.  I also told her basic stuff about me, my family, and what I do.  Told her about my trip around the US and Mexico.

Naturally, as Asians, we tend to talk about our age.  She told me she is 30 years old.  I said, me too! and she asked, when is your birthday? and I said in June; and she's like me too! June when?  I said, 15! she said No way! I'm 16th!  Then also found out that we both booked the Super Shuttle to get from the airport to go to our hostels.  The connection began so we started showing each other photos of our family.  She then showed me some of her photos on her ipad and saw this photo of her:

I was like, that looks like me!  What the?!  That's me!  I guess we both didn't realize we looked alike because the light was dim.  I showed her photos of my sister Girlie, and she said she feels like she looks like her too! hahaha

Anyway, we spent the rest of the time chatting and talking about China and other things.  We promised to keep in touch and meet up in New York after she finds for an apartment to stay.  So a day before I left for DC, I met up with her.  Here is our photo:

Maybe you don't agree we look alike, but I KNOW people will say we could be sisters!  She also told me that something happened on the plane that I didn't pay attention to: When we were about to land and the flight attendant was giving us US Customs Card, the girl told us that we only need 1 card per family and so she gave me one and moved on to the next passenger! haha  She had to call the attendant back to give her a card. LOL.  Then at the Super Shuttle counter, we each gave our vouchers to the lady on the desk, and she was confused and said, oh you guys have 2 copies? and I was like, yeah, we're not related! haha  she thought we were sisters too.  We jokingly talk about that we might have the same ancestors from China; but this was not very feasible for she is from the North (Beijing) and my family is from the South (Fujian)! haha

We just constantly amaze one another with the stuff we find out about each other.  When we met the other day, we found out that we were actually at the same place at the same time.  We just didn't meet.  We were both at the Financial District trying to see what celebration is going on near the World Trade Center.  We each showed our photos and we even took the same photo of the singing choir group.  Funny.

When we were about to say goodbye after spending an afternoon together, we said goodbye hoping to see each other again in this lifetime.  There was this undeniable connection between the two of us, we both felt it.  She even told me that if I ever get into whatever kind of trouble in the US that I can call her and she will do everything she can to help me.  You only say that kind of thing when you mean it.

It is stories like this that is worth sharing.  Amazing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Extreme Filipino Hospitality

I have always heard of and talked about Filipino Hospitality.  Boasted about how extremely hospitable Filipino people are; I was speaking in the host point-of-view.  It was not until I got to New York and met up with my Filipino friends that I have come to realize how hospitality can be taken to a whole new level.

Since I got here, I have met up with my friends Jackson and Joy (my high school friends), AJ and Nina (from college), and Anne (whom I've met here via G).

Anne, is a successful Filipina woman who lives in a posh apartment in Manhattan and works as a producer in Bloomberg.  Yeah!  Her life is divine!  I have met her only through G, who came here to visit her.  The other night, I went to her  house to hang out and drank wine which ended at around 3 in the morning.  I fell asleep on her floor while chatting with the girls.  When I woke up in the middle of the night to go pee, she immediately offered me everything that I could ever need to be more comfortable in her house; sleepwear, pajama, shorts, slippers, tshirt... She made me feel so at home for my impromptu sleepover!

me, G, Anne

Then there is my high school friend, Jackson and his wife Joy, who has been nothing but supportive of my visit to NY.  Weeks before I was coming, Joy would send me photos of their new baby Gavin saying "See you soon, Auntie!" or the constant exchange of messages with Jackson to help me out with tips on places to go and food to eat.  They just had a baby 2 months ago and they traveled all the way to Brooklyn with Joy's parents just to welcome me to New York!  I felt so guilty making them come all the way down just to see me even though Joy's parents were tired from walking the whole morning; plus the stress of traveling with a new born baby (first time on the subway too)!  It's so crazy.  We went to the Brooklyn Smorgasburg Food Flea Market and even paid for my food and drinks!  Not just that, I realized that I left a bag with them and Jackson brought it back to me today (but told me yesterday if it were anything important, he would bring it to me right away)!  He also invited me to come see a baseball game at the Citifield Stadium in Queens to watch the Mets game then fed me burger!

Jackson, me, Joy, and Joy's dad who is visiting

Then of course, there is AJ and Nina.  AJ was my blockmate in University and Nina was his girlfriend (now wife).  AJ usually works late and does not use as much facebook, so I have been keeping in touch with Nina this whole time.  Since the day I have arrived, there is not a day that Nina failed to ask me how my day went, and what I did that day.  They've asked me to keep my Sunday and Monday free so that I can spend time with them during their off days.

So far, I was driven everywhere by their beautiful new car; they have driven me to restaurants, malls, even outlets in Long Island!  Nina remembered everything that I told her about what I wanted to eat or things I wanted to do, and places I wanted to go.  Yes, everything.

There is a funny story that happened when we had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.  I was so alert from the beginning of dinner that I wanted to pay because of all this overwhelming hospitality they have been showing me.  So when the bill arrived, AJ and I both hurriedly grabbed the bill from the waitress' hand, but I won. haha.  Then the arguing started:  No, no, Cands, let me pay! /  Noooo.. I'll pay! |  Give me the bill, Cands!  |  No! |  Give it! | No! | Give it! our voices got so loud that Nina asked us to stop haha, she said people were staring at us lol. It felt like we were on a game show called "I'll pay for dinner!"  Eventually, after much debate, AJ finally gave in and allowed me to foot the bill.  I told him that I have already given my credit card to the waitress even before they served the food (which wasn't true, haha).  AJ even resorted to some name-calling because he lost the game! lol.

If all of that wasn't not enough, they are helping me fill up my balikbayan box with the stuff I bought from the outlets!  AND!!!! they washed my clothes for me since I've already been here for a week now; I gave them stinky clothes and they gave it back to me clean and folded!!!! (they insisted! I promise, ma!) gosh...

me, Nina and AJ at the All American Drive-In!
What I found really amazing is that my friends all said they felt embarrassed if they didn't do something for me!  They have this sense of responsibility that you have to have fun in their turf.  Despite the fact that I feel like I am the one that is taking up so much of their time and wanting to do the stuff that they have already done; as if their time wasn't enough gift for me, they will want to pay for my food too!

I tell you Filipinos set such high standard in hospitality, you'll be spoiled.  No one compares!  Tell me about your extreme Filipino hospitality experience.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Impressions of New York

I have finally made it to NY!  The City of Lights!  Been here for 24 hours from surviving 16 hours of flight and 12-hour time difference.  I have done a lot of sleeping considering I am in The City That Never Sleeps!  I feel so guilty falling in and out of consciousness since I arrived!  I slept at 5 in the morning til 1pm then slept again at 4-7pm!  I have to fix this sleeping pattern and start doing stuff in NY!

So after 24 hours, I decided to do a list of my first impressions of New York, so here it goes:

New York is like a giant movie set.  It is so BEAUTIFUL in New York! The architecture, the stores, the posters on the wall, the steam, the stairwell up an apartment (ala SATC), bricks, street lights, sculptures, road signs, fire escapes, trees... everything!!!  Everything seems to mean something artistically; like trees are strategically placed beside a street lamp so the shadows would cast beautifully on the road, it's so poetic.  I have given up taking photos of the buildings because all of them are beautiful!

photo from tlc-mag.com
New York is dirty.  Coming from Manila, I expected New York to be alot cleaner. haha.  There is just sooo much trash!  Don't get me wrong, the trash are organized and clean in black plastic bags, but they are just EVERYWHERE!  So much trash.

New York people are always on the phone.  No matter its the taxi driver, or the guy driving a truck, the UPS guy, the cashier from the store, a businessman walking on the street, the lady walking the dog, everyone is on the phone, ALL THE TIME!  Even my friend Chris Fed and I were NOcializing while eating haha

New York is delicious.  I have eaten at 3 places so far since I have been here, I have had a burger from 5 Napkins (USD 16), a Sabrett Hotdog (USD 4) on the street, and Katz's Pastrami Sandwich (USD 17) and everything has been wonderfully delicious (and expensive).  I have stopped converting my expenditures into peso.

New York is really diverse.  You cannot tell whether a person is a local or foreign.  It is such a melting pot of a city (that makes food so authentically delicious), that so far I have met people from Pakistan, England, Tunisia, Jamaica, China, France, Italy and Americans from other states all in just 24 hours.

New York roads are uneven.  Growing up in the Philippines and associating everything nice with the US, I thought NY roads would be less rocky haha.  I was surprised that our roads in Manila are comparable that of NY.

New York Subway is so hard to get used to.  It was not until I have spoken to a local who told me that the subway only goes North and South and none East to West that I understood why taking the train is almost the same as walking when I was heading towards Bleeker from 9th Street.  It is so difficult to find out where the stations are, the stairwells just magically appear on the side of the road.  There is no logo, or metro sign or anything.

New York is all about the parks.  I have yet to go to Central park and yet I have seen so many already! It's nice to have clean benches to sit on and eat a hotdog.  There are a lot of trees too!

New York is dog crazy.  There are soooo many dogs in New York!!  Someone is either walking their dog or someone is walking someone else's dog!  They are EVERYWHERE!  Therefore needless to say, there are also dog parks all around!

New York is tattoo friendly.  A LOT of people have tattoos!  Almost 85% of the people I see in the subway and walking in the street has tattoos! So awesome!

New York seems to have a bad reputation about safety.  90% of the people I have spoken to about New York has offered me some sort of safety precautions about the city.  Don't walk in the park at night; carry 20 dollar bills in your pocket so if someone robs you, you can just give them a 20;  Stay away from crazy people haha among other stuff.  I've lived in Manila my whole life and have never felt afraid even if I was in Caloocan or Tondo.  As a traveler, we should always be vigilant, apply common sense and trust your instincts anywhere in the world.

New York is friendly.  I guess I haven't been around yet, but so far, everyone has been really friendly.  Everyone takes time to say hello, chat a little bit, welcome me to the US, help me out when they saw me looking lost.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Travel Packing List!

I am 5 days away *panic* before my 10-week long trip and anyone one who is ever going anywhere asks the same question:  What do I pack?

I have been mentally packing for the past month on what I should or should not bring with me?  Am I bringing too much?  Am I not bringing enough?  Is there anything I forgot?

One of the most sensible advice I've heard is from Wanderlass who said to: pack everything you need and remove anything that you think you MIGHT need.  Buy everything else in your destination.

So without further ado, I show you my packing list:

I have been using this guide to build my wardrobe.  I think it's pretty useful, I should put up on #ootd shot while I'm in New York! haha

3 pants (black and blue denim skinny jeans, a khaki or printed pants)
5 pairs of shoes (rubber shoes, boots, ballet flats, black pumps, slippers)
4 jackets (jersey sport jacket, fleece, reversible jersey/rain jacket, leather)
2 L/S shirts (chambray, checkered)
5 L/S tshirts
2 scarves
5 pairs of socks
12 miscellaneous underwears
1 Aquazorb towel

1 Chromebook
1 iPhone 4
1 Samsung Note2
1 Samsung Camera
1 12000 mAh Power Pond
1 1800 mAh Power Pack
1 camwhore stick (at least that's what I call it)
1 Philip Stein dual time zone watch
1 numeral padlock for hostels
1 cord lock for traveling

Antibiotic (because you cant buy them OTC in the USA)
Immodium (for Mexico, lol)
Panadol (because of my killer Dysmenorrhea)
Nu Skin Enchancer (for all type of skin problems, I swear by this product)
Ping On (my ever reliable ointment)

Make Up
CC Cream
Face powder
Eyebrow Cream
Blush on
Lip Balm
Lip Crayon

Toiletries + Make Up
Shampoo, travel size
Conditioner, travel size
bar of soap
face wash, fem wash
nail cutter
sun screen for face

Air tickets (printed and e-copies)
Driver’s License
Bank Card
Credit Cards

All of these things will be put into my sister's lugguage, the same one Wanderlass used for her round-the-world travel!

Do you have any packing tips to share with me?  Is there anything I forgot?  Help me out.  Safe travels!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I am Samsung Crazy! WB280f Camera Review


I have been using my camera for exactly 2 weeks now and I am definitely getting to know it better.  I think I'm loving it more than I did when I wrote the initial review.  I learned some of the features that definitely made this camera worth my while.

photo from http://www.lovegrowswild.com

S Camera:

When in doubt which setting to use, always set it on Smart Camera setting, the camera logo with an S.  This option takes multiple photos and combines all the photos to make 1 perfect photo.  This option is perfect for a cloudy day, bright but not enough light; the kind of setting where in regular setting you will need to have a steady hand to get a perfect shot, well this option perfects it for you.  Downside is, it processes it kind of slow so you really can't take "kodak moments."  (e.g. UN photos)

P Prorgram:

This works perfectly with perfect sunlight, fast and perfect shots in day time and sunlight.  Force flash can be enforced too.  (e.g. my Washington Capitol Photos)

Crop on the spot:

When you've taken the perfect shot and want to crop out that big tummy or arms, just zoom in and adjust with the touch screen, then click crop.  It automatically saves a new file of the cropped (thinner) version! (e.g. I will not show you an unflattering photo of me, lol)

Wifi Direct:

Initially, I like the "Shoot Now, Share Wow" option because it automatically sends photos you take into your smart phone.  I realized that I do not want this feature because it might use up battery both of my phone and camera.  So I use the Wifi Direct option on my camera and Samsung smart phone (Note 2) to quickly transfer selected file (1 by 1 only) for further editing and posting on facebook.

My verdict:  I am very happy with this camera.  It could be a bit frustrating during night time when I need to check the setting all the time (e.g. my Time Square photos took a lot of tries to get it right); but I am sure that it only gets easier once I am used to it.


The expenditures of my trip so far does not only include my airfares and lodging, I will also have to include gadgets that I have been purchasing FOR this trip, lol.  A few months back, I bought a Google Chromebook and recently have just bought a new Samsung WB280f Smart Camera!

During my short travels, I really do not even bother bringing a real camera with me since I got my Samsung Note 2.  This phablet takes decent to moderately awesome pictures in day time and crappy flash night photography; but for me to be able to share it online is just very convenient for me.

So far, I have been very impressed (and satisfied) with the Samsung products I own, namely my tv, phone, and Chromebook (not to mention our family fridge and washing machine).  I feel very spoiled by Samsung.  Call me Samsung crazy, but I feel that they do not skimp on any features and just gives you all the options and alternatives that you may want and more.

The Samsung Smart Camera WB280f series, you really do not need to compromise, this camera has built in WiFi and a whole lot more.  This is not a sponsored post from Samsung (how I wish it were!) but I am just a big fan of Samsung!

So, what got me sold to this camera?  Let me show you.

Amazing isn't it?  I have been playing with the camera for the past few days and here are my top 5 things I love about it.

1. Mobile Link.  The camera connects with my mobile phone (Samsung Note2) via WiFi, no internet required.  It works like bluetooth but I guess connection is stronger.  Whenever I take a photo with my camera, it automatically transfers it to my mobile phone.  Not only does that duplicate a copy of my photo, I can show it to people in a bigger screen.

2. Easy to use.  The menus are easy to navigate.  Directions are straight forward, information almost spoon fed.  I like that it is touch screen (very accurate too) so I wouldn't wear the buttons out, which are ergonomically positioned and easy to press.

3. Remote Viewfinder.  This feature is AWESOME!  You can prop your camera up on a stand and see the view of the camera FROM YOUR PHONE!  Hiyeah!  You can control zoom and capture at the palm of your hands, wow.

4.  Charger.  One of the things I love about Samsung (and definitely hate about Apple) is how they use the micro USB charger for everything.  This is the dream that one day, the whole world will use the same charger for ALL gadgets!  This will save so much resources onto making adapters and new chargers.  So far my phone, my camera, and my power pack all uses micro USB charger except for my stupid iphone4.

Please allow me to indulge and bash Apple some more.  After most of the gadgets have shifted to micro USB, Apple still maintained their 1" wide charger; and so being the market leader, a lot of the cars manufacturers, hotels, cruise ships etc have incorporated the ipod 1" wide charger into their products or establishments; and then now!  they came out with iPhone 5 / iPad mini and changed it into a different charger!  Not only requiring people who have old Apple charger to buy flash charger adapter (which costs USD29 each) but automatically making all the other products obsolete!  Not just the charger per se but also music docks, both originals and fakes!  Imagine that impact world wide.  I think what they did was utterly ignorant and selfish.  I know Apple is all about being elite and shit but I think this was a little bit irresponsible.  :P

5. Lightweight.  I love how light the whole camera is even with the battery in it.  I was expecting for the weight to be noticeable if I put it in my bag because I am very particular about keeping my bag light (because I am lazy), but no, it was so light that I forgot that it was in my bag the whole afternoon I was walking around.

Things I am a bit iffy about:

Well, among the top 5 list above, I have not mentioned once about photo quality.  Honestly, I am a bit disappointed (NOT impressed) with the quality of the photos.  Although it has 14 megapixel quality photo and FULL HD video,  I have yet to take a satisfactory indoor photo.  It takes a little better photo than my Samsung Note2. I haven't fully explored the settings of the camera yet, but I am banking on taking mostly day time outdoor photos during my travel anyway, and will rely on flash photos and photoshopping for the night time.  

OH! and on another note, the programs of this camera DOES NOT work with my Google Chromebook because it is such a new OS, so they still do not have the program like Intelli Stuido for it yet.  But then I can still upload my files into Windows Sky Drive (I don't know why they didn't partner with Dropbox instead, like their mobile phones) for back up which is pretty neat.

Anyway, all in all, if you aren't a professional photographer and you want to take good (read: semi-awesome) photos and camera LOADED with features, this is a good camera for its price.  I cannot wait to travel and capture memories in it already!

Here are sample shots:

split screen
i controlled the camera with my phone!
3 part split screen (thanks Yords haha!)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


There is no more appropriate title to announce my trip to Mexico than to say I AM GOING TO ...

When I was planning my trip, I was deciding whether I would go up North and see Canada or go to the South to see Mexico, but finally decided TO GO TO MEXICO!!!

Mexico is such an elusive place for me and it's like a dream that I am actually going!  I am going to Mexico!!!

Last August 15, I did it and bought my ticket to Mexico!!!  As I have mentioned in my previous post, I will be spending a month there flying in from Austin, Texas!

Trying to plot my route around Mexico wasn't as easy as planning my USA trip because I have been staring at the USA map for 5 years now (since I started planning on going); it was only recently that I started to read travel guides, blogs, travel forum posts, and watching YouTube travel videos just to get an idea on what to do and how to go around.

Finally my friend Zara gave me a great link that helped me alot!  It was an itinerary for a package tour around Mexico.  It was a gold mine of information on where to go and what to see.  I combined all the information I got from forums and blogs and finally concluded my itinerary as follows:

Fly in to Cancun from Austin.  Stay here for a week to learn Spanish before heading to Playa del Carmen.  On the way to stay 3 nights in Palenque, I will stop over at Campeche; and then head to Santo Cristo de Casas for 3 more nights and then Oaxaca for 3 days before I head to spend a week in Mexico to go to Lake Patzcuaro for Dia delos Muertos!  For those who has been, what do you think of my itinerary?

I am so excited that I'm actually a little scared! haha I have so much to do, so much to prepare!  I have to start figuring out what to pack! afdhkjldhfklhfajdhf *faint*

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Skipping August

A few months back, whenever I thought about my trip to the Americas, I would always look at my calendar in terms of important events like my cousin's wedding, my nephew coming to see us or friends visiting and other short term trips. From the day I bought my MNL - SFO ticket in February, my itinerary so far looks like this:

March is mom's birthday - April is Jin coming to see us in Manila - May my cousin gets married and my girlfriends and I go to Boracay! - June is the month I turn 30 and I go to Cambodia for travel - July I go to Hong Kong and 2 friends from Korea come to see me!  Then after that, it's September! haha

I always skip the month of August since nothing important happens this month anyway.  Nothing important I say... it is THE most IMPORTANT month (of PLANNING my trip)!!!  I am so glad that I am not doing anything or going anywhere. Since the month started, I have been reading nothing but travel blogs, travel books and just everything about my trip!  I’ve been clicking my mouse away, buying interstate flights, and keeping in touch with friends I am going to meet! (and of course, doing some real work in between, haha)

I also decided to stop writing and updating my blog because I realized my itinerary kept changing. It wasn’t until I started booking my flights that my schedule was carved in stone.  Initially, I was planning to do it Wanderlass style and just wing it, play it by ear, or improv! haha I realized I couldn't and shouldn't do that because I needed a fixed schedule in order to meet-up with friends who have regular jobs.

So in exactly 26 days, I am flying out of Manila and heading to my first long adventure!  Here my travel itinerary as follows:  New York --> NJ --> DC --> Boston --> Rhode Island --> Wisconsin --> Chicago --> Louisiana --> Austin --> MEXICO --> San Francisco --> Manila :(

I am going to meet up alot of old friends and also will meet new friends while couchsurfing.  If I'm gonna be near your city, please holler! :D

Safe travels!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Angkor Wat and curry!

I recently traveled to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see the magnificent Angkor Wat sunrise. It was beautiful and was most definitely picturesque.

Other than visiting Wats or temples around Siem Reap and partying at night in Pub Street, there really isn't much to do in Siem Reap; that's why my friend recommended me to attend a Khmer cooking class at the Tigre de Papier.  It is a restaurant cum cooking school for tourists.

You can check out their website to check their schedules of classes.  I also wanted to meet other travelers so I called beforehand to find out and make sure there were classes.  The meeting place for the class is at the restaurant, just make sure to talk to the waitresses and tell them you're there for the cooking class.  It is a bit inconspicuous so I really had to make sure they don't leave me out.  

I arrived there and talked to the other people who were going to take the class too; and while we were waiting for others, we were asked to look at the menu and choose whatever we wanted to cook.  It's cool because they don't dictate what recipes to teach you.

I chose chicken curry and spring roll.  I did not enjoy the spring roll so much but was amazed to learn how to make my own curry which I am going to share with you.

To make curry paste, you will need the ff:  
This recipe is good for 1-2 servings.

Initially I thought it would be hard for me to find tumeric, lemon grass and lime leaves; but lemon grass and tumeric were readily available in the market; while lime leaves are a bit of a challenge.  I did find it in more high-end groceries like S&R (chiller, by the lettuces, Salad Time brand in a resealable plastic bag, fresh) and Rustan's Supermarket in the condiments section (pepper corns, etc.) Thai Kitchen brand comes in a jar, dried.  Dried lime leaves are also sold everywhere in Cambodia for USD1 a pack, which is very cheap compared to getting them here.  For the dired lime leaf, you will need to soak it in hot water for about 15 minutes until it "un-dries"; chop everything finely.

Put everything EXCEPT onion into the mortar and pestle and start pounding until you see it turn into a sort of paste, then add the onion, and pound again.

*Warning: be careful of Tumeric, omg, its the agent that makes curry yellow and it will stain your clothes permanently and your hands for at least 24 hours.  Also stains your braces rubber into a permanent neon yellow.

For the stew itself you will need the ff, the amount is up to you, just keep in mind that this recipe is good for 1 or 2 persons:

a few pieces of chicken, it can be (4 pcs) wings, or 2 deboned thigh part, or white meat if you prefer, cut into pieces

  • sweet potato (yes! more delicious than potato we are used to in Filipino cooking)
  • carrots
  • string beans, sitaw
  • eggplant
  • bell pepper
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • water
First, boil half a can of coconut milk, then put in the paste.  When it boils, put in the beans, sweet potato, and carrots in, because they take longest to cook.  This wasn't taught in class, but I find putting extra dried lime leaf brings in more flavor.  When they simmer for about 5 min, you will notice the sauce is now thicker, so put in some water.  Let it come to a boil again, put the fire in medium low then put in the bell pepper and eggplants. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes, then put in your chicken.  I personally feel that it's weird to just put in raw chicken into the sauce, maybe since I am used to Chinese cooking, I felt more comfortable stir frying it separately until half cooked, then put it in the sauce.  Simmer for another 15-20 min until the meat is cooked.

You can, for sure, replace chicken with beef or fish, just adjust the cooking time :)  Then voila, serve over hot rice!

It was so good!