TRAVEL: Keeping Your Memories Alive (Philippines/Bali Recap Video)

Traveling is truly one of the most transformational things people can do for themselves. Whether you travel near or far, there’s a guarantee you won’t feel the same or be the same. It’s been two months since I left Bali, and I still think and dream about it every day.

Thanks to technology, I have all my memories saved as a constant reminder every day to keep my transformation alive. Combined, the boys and I have thousands of photos from our trip and hours of footage recorded on Alvin’s GoPro. In addition, I have a day-to-day diary of my trip that I’ve documented via this blog, with very detailed (sometimes redundant) descriptions of what went on and how we were feeling.

So coming home, I made sure to do two things. First, make a photo album with all my favorite photos from our trip (which was really hard because I had so many pictures of monkeys and bowls of curry that I wanted to include). 200 photos definitely didn’t feel like enough to capture 6-weeks worth of travel, but my album turned out absolutely perfect. Second, make a travel video. I hadn’t dabbled in any video editing in years, but I was ready to tackle the project. I sifted through hours worth of footage and Alvin selfies, and was able to condense our trip into twelve minutes. Watching the video was like reliving a dream. I wasn’t sure it really happened or of the places we visited were real.

img_5605img_5606

Back to transformation… I’ll admit, it’s really easy to forget. I wanted to travel because I intended to find myself and recreate purpose within me. A month after being back home, I found myself already lost in my own confusion and self-doubt. Luckily, I took the time to put all the things I’ve learned and all the memories I’ve made into an album and a video. Every time I find myself in my own pit of negative thoughts, I come back to the great memories I made, not dwelling on the past, but using it as a reminder of how great my future can be.

For anyone traveling or planning on traveling, I highly recommend taking the time to put together an album with your favorite photos, or recording footage for you to show your friends and family when you get back home. And don’t procrastinate! The longer you wait, the more likely you’re never going to do it. So this should be the first thing you do when you get back from traveling. I promise it’ll be worth your time.

 

Advertisements

TRAVEL: Ubud, Bali: Monkey Sanctuary, Goa Gajah, and Yoga (8/9/16)

Our first day in one of Bali’s most popular destinations was already full of sites, activities, and lots of great photos for Instagram. The day we arrived in Ubud, the boys and I decided to just walk around, window shop, and visit the local yoga studios. We saved all the activities for our next full day in Ubud. We woke up the next morning at our (gorgeous) Airbnb, Sania’s House, and had complementary breakfast sitting on the porch of the royal family house. 



Sacred Monkey Sanctuary 

Our first stop that morning was the Monkey Sanctuary, located not too far away from Sania’s House. We typed in the address to our GPS, and was confused as to why the app was telling us to go the long way. Stupidly defying the app, we ended up going the wrong way on a one-way street and had to turn back around anyway. Half an hour later, we finally made it to the Sacred Monkey Sanctuary. We paid a 40,000 IDR fee (about $3) to go inside, and I immediately bought 50,000 IDR worth of a “big batch” of bananas. We walked through the entrance and saw a few tourists freaking out because a monkey tried touching them. Eager to befriend a monkey, I took out a banana and said hello to the first monkey I saw. I bent down, reached my hand out, and a small monkey hand reached out to grab my banana. 

We walked around the entire sanctuary and saw protective mama monkeys carrying their babies, and a few monkeys picking fleas and bugs off of other monkeys (and then eating them), which Alvin said reminded him of me and Josh. We made friends with more monkeys, until we went deeper into the forest and got mobbed by some. They first jumped on Josh and then jumped on me. I had two monkeys on me at once trying to get into my backpack, and eventually succeeding. However, even after they attacked me I still wanted to hug all of them. I left the sanctuary wanting to take a monkey home with me. 

Goa Gajah/ Elephant Cave

Not too far away from the Monkey Sanctuary was our second destination, the Goa Gajah temple. Upon entering the parking lot, we were swarmed by ladies who insisted we needed to buy sarongs to wear inside the temple (although we later saw a lot of people inside the temple who weren’t wearing them). Thinking they were the only vendors around, we bargained and bought sarongs with beautiful rich colors that were accented with black and gold. Walking towards the temple, we soon realized that there were a bunch of other vendors also selling more sarongs. We bought our tickets and were on our way inside. One of the tour guides inside the temple told us that the temple was both Hindu and Buddhist. He offered to give us a tour with the history of the temple, but we decided to explore on our own. 

We went inside the man-made cave, which was a little difficult to get into since there were so many tourists. There were only two statues in there at the time so there wasn’t much to see. We walked around over to the other side of the temple where we could pray and receive blessings. Our last stop at the temple was the fountain. At the fountain, water flowed out from the ground and into statues carved into the stone wall that spouted water for us to wash our face and hands with. I found it so beautiful that in so many religions, water is used to both spiritually bless and heal.


Yoga Barn (Vinyasa Flow) 

Of course, we had to start fitting in some yoga time into our schedule. We took a 4PM level 2 vinyasa flow class at one of Bali’s most famous studios, Yoga Barn. The yoga studio (which also has a cafe) is located very close to the Monkey Sanctuary in central Ubud. The studio is a bit hidden, with only two small signs pointing into the alley to turn into to get to the studio. We arrived half an hour early to register and get good spots for the class. I hadn’t taken a class in four weeks, and was excited to finally be able to practice again.

 Our instructor, Nadine, introduced herself at the beginning of class. She had a very warm and fun aura to her, and I knew class was going to be fun. Her theme for the class was “fake it ’till you make it.” She said we had a choice with everything we do. We can either get aggravated when things don’t quite go as planned, or act with grace. As class went on, she integrated all beginning, intermediate, and advanced poses for everyone. Class was full with more then 50 people and the energy was high. The boys and I left the studio very happy and excited to try other classes at the studio. 

TRAVEL: The Mystical Island of Siquijor (8/2-8/3/16)

We admittingly found out about Siquijor because of a YouTube video we watched. We fell in love with two of the island’s destinations, and decided we had to see it for ourselves. Siquijor is the second smallest island province in the Philippines. You can circle around the island in a motorbike in approximately four hours. We spent three days and four nights on this island, which was an abundant amount of time. Before coming here, we talked to some locals in Cebu about going to Siquijor. Turns out the island is known for being “magical” and has a reputation to be the island of voodoo magic. I took that with a grain of salt and wanted to see what the island was about myself. 


The boys and I spent our entire first day just relaxing and recuperating from all the activities we have been doing. The next day, we set off to see the island’s treasures. 

The Century Old Balete Tree

About four centuries old, this tree has withstood the test of time, much like a lot of things you’ll find on this island. The tree is about 400 years old, and there’s a fish spa located right in front. The fish loved Josh’s feet, Alvin was a little freaked out by the bigger fish, and I was terrified at the thought of fish nibbling at my feet. A lot of the tourists there seemed to enjoy it though, and the locals were excited that a lot of people were there to visit. Although I didn’t enjoy the fish, I did make the most adorable new friend! One of the locals working in the shop had a baby monkey wearing a tiny blue shirt. I asked if I could see it, and they let me hold him. Needless to say, I absolutely fell in love with the little guy. 



The Lazi Convent

This is another one of the island’s treasures that has withstood the test of time. The large, old church was built in the 1800s by the Spaniards. By the looks of it, mass is still held there till this day. The church had a certain aura that made the hairs in the back of my neck stand up. People were trying to sell us candles in the front, but there was nowhere to light the candle and say a prayer in the inside. A little boy with no shoes greeted us as we entered the church. He led us upstairs, through a nearly broken staircase up to the dusty attic-like area where the bell tower was. Very old and broken, I was afraid the floor would collapse any second. I went to bed still thinking about how strange the church and aura was. I talked to my mom and she said maybe there were “spirits” lingering still. I wouldn’t be surprised. 


Cambugahay Falls

This was our #1 destination spot here in Siquijor. Cambugahay Falls is like a little gem hidden within the island. It’s located very close to the church and is very easy to find. After walking down a few flights of man-made stone stairs, we found ourselves greeted by locals who guided us through the falls. There are three levels to the falls, the top being the most abundantly flowing with water and lush scenery. At the top is also a giant swing made of wood that lunges you into the pool of water. The locals help you grab on and swing into the water. While it’s fun to watch the locals flip and do tricks into the water, it’s also fun to watch tourists belly flop themselves into the water. The falls are beautiful, mystical, and the water is so cool and clean to swim in. Seeing these falls is definitely going to be one of the highlights of my trip. 



Salagdoong Beach
 

This is the island’s most popular beach. When we went, the water was blue and the tide was high. It’s not comparable to the beaches of Palawan or Boracay, but what makes this beach really cool is the diving platform built on a cliff in the middle of the beach. Josh jumped off the highest platform right away. Me on the the other hand, started staring down at the water for way too long. Nerves started to kick in and it seemed like we were up on that platform forever. The local boys would run of the platform and do flips like it was nothing. Finally, I decided to jump off the shorter platform, irritated with myself that I had waited so long to do it, but happy I finally did.

​​


St. Francis of Assisi
 

One of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church is St. Francis of Assisi. I was really excited to visit this church because the book I’m reading called There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, has St. Francis’s prayer on the back. His prayer is also one of my favorite songs to sing at church on Sunday: 

Where there is hatred, let me show love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is undying t self that we are born to eternal life.

The church was beautiful and antique, as most churches built in the 1800s are. It had the usual big altar crested in gold paint with saints and Mama Mary on both sides of the church. 
On our last day there, Josh and I drove around the island the explore the coast. On our way to Lugnason Falls, we rode through what was more inland countryside and were greeted by almost every person we passed by. We drove through lush green and beautiful fields of rice patties. We didn’t get to see any falls, but the scenery, sunset, and view of the coast was worth it. 


On our last day there, Josh and I drove around the island the explore the coast. On our way to Lugnason Falls, we rode through what was more inland countryside and were greeted by almost every person we passed by. We drove through lush green and beautiful fields of rice patties. We didn’t get to see any falls, but the scenery, sunset, and view of the coast was worth it. 


Three full days was definitely enough time for us to be on the island. Siquijor is an island that someone could get around in about one day and see almost everything the island has to offer. Although I did get a small case of island fever, I loved our accommodation, The Bruce, and the time we all got to stay and rest there. Alvin laid in a hammock for hours every day, Josh spent a lot of time reading, and I finally got in some yoga time. I guess it’s just God or the universe’s way of giving us the time we needed to rest for our next adventure, Bali! 



My Tips for Visiting Siquijor: 

*Come after rainy season. We came in the middle of rainy season, but because Siquijor doesn’t get hit with too much rain as oppose to the other nearby islands, there wasn’t a huge abundance of water at the waterfalls. Rainy season falls from the beginning of July until the end of August. Cambugahay Falls was still epic, but other falls we tried visiting like Lugnason Falls had no water at all. Also, the tide was very low, leaving black seaweed all over what are usually white sandy beaches with clear blue water. 

*Motorbike is the best way to transport yourself. Of course, you can try and take a tricycle, but there aren’t as many around as there usually are in bigger cities. The island is small and doesn’t see too many tourists. Lucky for me, the boys both learned to ride motorbikes. Try riding a scooter or motorbike, or makes friends with a local who will be willing to take you around the island for a day or two.

TRAVEL: Taraw Cliff, Crazy Rocks, and an Epic View (7/25/16)

On Monday morning, boys and I woke up at 5:15AM to book a tour guide to Taraw Cliff. We had to wait a bit, but we finally started our journey around 7:30AM. During the first 5-seconds of our hike, I was already thinking, “This is definitely not what I was expecting.” I read reviews about the hike being difficult, but I way underestimated the strenuousness of this trek! Strenuous is the one word I would use to describe this hike, but definitely, definitely worth it as well.

The hike up to Taraw Cliff was about an hour long. The entire trek is rock climbing through the mountain. What was a bit scary at first was that the rocks were almost all sharp and jagged, which made it easier to grip, but was something you definitely wanted to avoid falling on. Lucky for us, our guide was great at explaining how to get through the rocks safely and efficiently. He let me take breaks whenever I needed it, and checked up on us frequently to make sure we were okay.

One-hour later, we finally made it to the top of the mountain. The view was breathtaking. In one glance, we could see the island that has been home to us for the past five days in full. To the left was the mountainside, the middle was vast oceans and more islands, and to the right was more lush mountainside. It made everything feel so small and attainable for just those moments.

Going down the mountain was more difficult for me and the boys than going up. A lot of balance was required. Unlike our super professional tour guide who was able to swift through it, I found it safest for me to walk through like a monkey the entire way back. I felt a lot safer knowing my butt and face was closer to the ground. We finally made it to the end, and I couldn’t have been more relieved that we all made it back in one piece!

My tips on prepping for Taraw Cliff:

Practice climbing at your local rock climbing gym. A few weeks ago, Josh took me rock climbing for the first time. It helped immensely during my hike, because I was used to using my leg strength and a little bit of arm strength as I was climbing the rocks. I highly recommend dabbling in some rock climbing at your local rock climbing gym if you plan on tackling Taraw Cliff.

Bring lots of water. It seems like a no-brainer, but the boys and I failed to do this. By the time we got half way, we were already parched because almost all of our water was gone. Hydrate!!

Wear shoes with good grip. The boys and I all wore our Chaco water shoes, and we’re all glad that we did. The grip made climbing so much easier. We saw people along the way wearing flip flops, and I don’t know how they managed to make it to the top, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy! Be safe and wear good shoes.

Be fearless. Trust me, you’ll be so proud of yourself by the end of this hike. Trust in yourself and your capabilities. Don’t look back, and keep moving forward!

TRAVEL: Puerto Princesa and an Underground River (7/21/16)

I’m currently writing this as I leave Puerto Princesa and head over to El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. I’m on the bumpiest, most windy bus ride I’ve ever been on – but more about that later.

image

We landed in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 719/16 and took a tricycle from the airport to our hostel, which was Alvin and Josh’s first time taking the Philippine’s infamous mode of transportation. During the ride, something compelled me to look back, and I saw that my backpack was LITERALLY about to fly off the tricycle! I managed to catch my backpack mid-fall whilst the tricycle was still moving. Even the tricycles and cars in the back of us saw it falling and started to slow down traffic in case it did fall.

We checked into Sheebang hostel and were quickly greeted by other foreign travelers who were drunk and playing ping-pong in the middle of the day. After we got settled in, we went downstairs to grab a bite at the restaurant/bar downstairs. I coincidentally ended up sitting next to a very drunk older man, whom Josh and I agreed was very drunk and was probably drinking all day. The night continued with a concoction of EDM and Hispanic dance music in the bartenders’ playlist.

We started the next morning waking up around 4-5AM to the sound of about 30 roosters all chanting loudly. We found a spot in front of Sheebang to do yoga, and quickly got sweaty doing about 15 sun salutations. I hope every morning of the rest of this trip starts out this way. We were the last to get picked up by our tour van that arrived about 35 minutes early at 7:25AM. We quickly got ready and were eager to start our day.

image

During the first 10 minutes of our ride, our tour guide gave us the history of Puerto Princesa and Palawan. We learned stuff like how the Vietnamese use to have a village with a few thousand families living by where the airport currently is, and why and who named the nearby bays and landmarks. The car ride to the Underground River was about 1-2 hours. We passed through the lush mountains, and passed beautiful limestone formations. We then took a 15-minute banka (boat) ride to the island where the Undregrond River was. That in itself was beautiful enough for this entire trip to be worth it.

img_2083Elephant Cave & “We out here” pt. I.

img_2103Banka ride on the way to the cave.

With our orange helmets and life jackets, we were ready to start being construction workers. Just kidding.- but we really did look like construction workers. We were given an ear piece for the tour since talking is supposed to be kept at a minimum during the tour. Upon entering the cave, we were greeted by hundreds of bats flying at us and nearly hitting us. We learned that these bats heavily rely on echo navigation to get around the cave, so we definitely don’t want to disrupt that.

We out here pt. II.

It took me a while to comprehend that this cave or underground river was actually real. The tour guide said that some people view the tour a a “holy experience”. I honestly didn’t believe it until I saw rock formations in the cave that literally looked like Jesus and the Last Supper. It was almost unreal knowing that this cave formed organically on it own for the past couple thousand years. It made me super appreciative of that geology class I took in college years ago. The tour is about 45-minutes long and doesn’t go through the entire cave because a permit to go deeper in hasn’t been granted yet. But when it does, I’m definitely going to be back to discover what more the cave has in store.


The entrance of the Underground River. 

We finished up our day visiting local palengkes for some light shopping, and eating at Kalui restaurant with our new friend Jake. There was by far the best sisig I’ve ever had, and I even got to try Kalawi which they called Filipino ceviche. I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture, so I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

And that leads me back to this bus ride I’m still currently on. We picked up breakfast before we left and Josh learned that if I you ask for egg and rice to-go from a street vendor at the palengke, I means that they will give it to you in a plastic bag.  20-minutes into the ride I was car sick from all the bumps and turns and getting thrown into the air. This is by far the most uncomfortable ride I have ever taken, but I’m sure our destination in El Nido will be more than worth it. Now excuse me while I try to hold my breakfast in for the next two hours.

I absolutely loved my first hostel experience! Said g’bye to Sheebang Hostel in Puerto Princesa.