Friday, November 18, 2016

Taiwan Itinerary & Budget

August was ending. It was almost two months after my trip to Central Europe and I was feeling restless. I had no planned trip for the rest of the year. Well I had plans of exploring Turkey with a friend but with the airport incident that happened in June, we got scared.

So no plans. But I wanted an adventure.

It came down to Taiwan. I flushed round-trip tickets that I got for Php 3K back in 2014 because I wasn't up for temples and siomai after my two-week trip in China. So bye bye Taiwan and tickets.

But this was two years after China, so I think I get have another dose of China, or its territory (Ooops not! *prickly point of contention*). Moving on.

I booked tickets with EVA air. Airfare costs $102 which includes meals and 20kg baggage allowance. That is a deal! That rate is not even a promo rate.

I decided to be a "kinda-maintenance" passenger and ordered vegetarian meals for my flights. The flight attendants take note of your seat number. You get served first before they roll out the food card for everyone else. Really good if you are someone like me who gets on a kinda-beast-mode when hungry. 
Pretty tasty

EVA Air flies out of Terminal 1. I Uber-ed (yeah that's a verb now, just like Googled) going to Terminal and it was a pretty quick ride with the now-open airport Skyway. I was very pleasantly surprised that I saw the facelift they've given Terminal 1.

The last time I was here was 2013 and this waiting area was poorly lit. I am extremely happy they fixed that. *applause*

There's the iconic Jollibee with a waiting area.

I didn't get any sleep in the flight. I was pretty "jet-lagged" when I landed in Taiwan Taoyuan Internation Airport. I presented the Travel Certificate I secured online using my multiple-entry Japan visa.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


In history and Game of Thrones, the armies conquer the lands by invading and raiding. The conquered village bow down to their new lord.

I have no army. I have no desire to conquer land. 
Nowadays, the game is in the domain name. 
That is easier to conquer.

After 6 years of travel blogging, I finally bought

I availed of the promo rate of GoDaddy for the first year (Php 53) and got some discounted offer for the next two years. Overall, I paid Php 970 for three years (note that the first year is a discounted rate). 

The link redirects you to my blogspot page. As of now, I have no plans of putting the effort in getting my own hosting. It took me 6 years to decide to buy my own domain, so it will probably take a while before I get my own host.

I started blogging in 2005. That was the "dear diary" era of blogging back then. I sometimes cringe when I read my writing back in those days. There were not a lot of specialized blogs or "branded" blogs. 

Then I started travelling in 2007 . I noticed a lot of specialty blogs sprouted: fashion, beauty, travel, finance, etc. It took me a long time to decide whether I should create a new blog that features my adventures. After much thought and consultation with friends, I decided to create an new one. I seriously thought about the name and motto of this blog

"Dot-comming" (that is a verb now, right?) my blog feels so grown-up. Parang bumili ako ng condo. :P

Cheers to more travel adventures...and blogging! :D

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How To Fully Enjoy Art In Island (Rediscovering Cubao)

Cubao memories...
When I was a kid, my mom took me to Fiesta Carnival frequently. I don't remember every ride we took but I remember we were there frequently. (RIP Fiesta Carnival).
When I was a teenager, my highschool classmates and I used to hang-out in the new Gateway when we were all sick and tired of SM North Edsa (Trinoma wasn't around back then).
Over the years, Cubao just became a crowded MRT spot and a hotbed for pickpockets. An adventure in Cubao is not enticing. I did not want to explore. I did go to Cubao Expo once to check on the boots on sale in Janilyn but that's it.
In my adult life, I just go to Cubao whenever there's an event or concert in Araneta Coliseum - oooh, it is now Smart-Araneta. :P  

This time, a new attraction put Cubao back in the map.

Art in Island is an Interactive Art Museum located right beside the Cubao Expo complex (or is it really part of it?). The museum allows visitors to interact with the art pieces. I've had my fair share of museums and I can say that they can be somewhat tiring. 

Well not this one.

I explored the museum together with my Amiga Sarah (we call our group Amigas, you probably have your own squad names) during my birthday. The museum has a birthday promo: the celebrant has a waived entrance fee during, one day before, and one day after the celebrant's birthday. 

I showed my driver's license as proof of my birthday, and the ticket lady greeted me "Happy birthday" and told me to just show my license as my "ticket". The other staff greeted me "Happy birthday!" as well when they saw my ID. Nice staff, nice start. Entrance fee costs Php 500/pax. Staff advised us to turn off the flash when taking photos.

According to their FAQs, bring the following
1. Camera
2. Socks/bedroom slippers. You need to leave your shoes before entering the museum.
3. Jacket because it can get cold inside 

After leaving our shoes, we proceeded entering the museum. The entryway contains artwork of familiar optical illusions. I did not bother to take photos of those because they were so cliche.

I'll be sharing selected pics here. I don't want to spoil the surprise of seeing all the paintings. Still, I ended up with quite a number of pics for this blog post. [I have no idea how to call the art in this museum. I'll be using, art, wallart, pics, mural, and painting interchangeably]. 

So here's the "introductory wall art". 
My game-on-energy vibes haven't kicked in yet.

Warm up pose. No strategy. 

Other tips to fully enjoy Art in Island:

4. Wear something you can easily move around in. I wore a dress + leggings + socks... because it was my birthday and I wanted to look fab. It was quite limiting to move around but it was still manageable.

It would also help if you are physically fit to squat, sit down, stand up, balance on one leg, and do all of these repeatedly. 

I am surfing. I am surfing in a dress. Believe me!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Europe Part III: Itinerary and Budget Breakdown

I should probably start blogging about this now. Grad school starts in two weeks. My blogging mojo has an erratic life. I have backlogs from my China 2014 trip. It is difficult to blog about the past and plan for the next trip at the same time. It is difficult to keep up with myself (Char!). So here we go.

Europe again. Can you blame me?

Crafting this itinerary took considerably less time that the previous two EU trips I did.
I didn’t feel that I “have to” hit a specific place just because I am in Europe. This time, I focused on Central Europe and did not travel via plane intra-Europe. I stuck with trains.

This is also the first time that I am travelling Europe during summer.

The table below is the itinerary I presented in my visa application. I just added additional columns for the contact details of the hostels. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Applying for a Schengen Visa in German Embassy Philippines

I am not a visa officer nor a visa agent. This post comes from my own personal experience.

I have been granted two tourist Schengen Visas in the past 5 years. The difference this time is that I am a consultant (contract-based) instead of an employee. I have been a consultant for the past 2 years and 4 months. 

Applying for a Schengen Visa (a.k.a. Europe Visa)
Applying for a Schengen Visa in Spain Embassy Philippines 

For this trip, I have a 23-day itinerary spanning Central Europe. I'll post my itinerary and budget in another post. I am staying in Germany the longest so I lodged my application there. 

General steps:
1. Browse and read the website of the German Embassy here in the Philippines. This contains all the information and forms that you need when applying for a Schengen visa. 

2. Schedule your appointment online. You can apply for a Schengen visa at most 3 months before your departure date. You can start booking your appointment a month before your visa application date (not sure if you can book earlier than that). I had to cancel my first appointment because I wasn't sure if my passport will be returned in time for my Sri Lanka trip. I cancelled my appointment online and rebooked my appointment at a date after my Sri Lanka trip.

3. Gather your documents. You should do this piecemeal, in my opinion. After I finished gathering everything, I had documents as thick as half a ream of bond paper. Oh my trees.

4. Appear at the embassy on time. You will be asked to leave your huge bags in the lobby which electronic gadgets will be left at the lockers in the lobby of the embassy.

5. Wait for your passport to be delivered. Should you be out, leave an authorization letter with your valid ID to someone you trust to receive your passport. 

Here's copy of the cover letter that I submitted. This is not required in the checklist of documents but I submitted one anyway. I edited some parts. None of the documents I submitted were returned to me. 

German Embassy Manila
25/F Tower 2, RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Ave (cor Sen. Gil Puyat Ave)
Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines


Re       :           Tourist Schengen Visa Application
                        Applicant: XXX
                        Passport Number: XXX


With reference to the Schengen tourist visa application of the undersigned, attached are the following requirements for your consideration:

Identity as traveller and Visa application form
Duly filled-up application form with 2 photos
Signed copy of Information provided to applicants pursuant to Section 54 (2) No.  8 in conjunction with Section 53 of the Residence Act
Original passport with photocopy of first and last page

Purpose of travel
Itinerary for the duration of the trip
Confirmed booking of accommodations
Flight Itinerary via Emirates Airlines: Manila to Budapest (Hungary), Frankfurt (Germany) to Manila

Financial coverage of the cost of travel and stay
Bank certificate - original and photocopy
Statements of accounts for personal savings account and payroll account for the last 6 months
Certificate of Time Deposit with Bank of the Philippine Islands

Travel Health Insurance
Travel Insurance: Travel Master Global Policy obtained from Malayan Insurance

Rootedness in the Philippines
Certificate of consultancy -original and photocopy
Photocopy of contract with foundation
Approved leave of absence form – original and photocopy
Copy of Income Tax Returns from 2014 to 2015 with bank payment slip
Payslips for the last 6 months 
Photocopy of credit cards
Credit card statements for the past 6 months (October to March 2016)
Statement of Account with mutual fund – Philequity Fund Inc.
Supporting documents as student of Master in International Studies Program in University of the Philippines, Diliman (Student Profile, Acceptance letter from college, tuition fee payment form)
      Ledger of stocks

Travel History
2    Photocopy of Schengen visa issued in September 2011 and March 2013
      Photocopy of previously issued and used visas: 
d.    South Korean – 2012 (single entry) and 2013 (multiple-entry)
e.    Japan Visa - 2012 (single entry) and 2013 (multiple-entry)
f.     China – 2014 (single entry)
g.    United States of America (2014, multiple entry for 10 years)
h.    United Arab Emirates (2015)


Contact Number


Duly filled-up application form with 2 photos. The application form can be accomplished online hereFor the section on "reference", I just typed down the name of the first hostel I was staying in then attached a sheet containing the details of all my accommodations for the trip. 

Itinerary for the duration of the trip. Day to day overview of activities. 

Confirmed booking of accommodations. I've been consistently using for booking the accommodation in my trips. I just chose the no prepayment and cancellable (is this really a word?) options. I summarized everything in an excel sheet. 

Flight Itinerary via Emirates Airlines. I paid before I applied for the visa. This is not required. Wag tularan! You can just secure a flight reservation from the airlines or travel agencies. I have no tips nor experience in securing flight reservations. 

Bank certificate. Secured mine from BPI for Php 100 and took my 30 mintues. They changed the format.They included the Average Daily Balance of the account and the date it opened. 

I wish they'll have an online feature of requesting a bank certificate then you'll just pick it up from the branch. Senorita lang no? XD I submited the  - original and photocopy.

Statements of accounts for personal savings account and payroll account for the last 6 months. Downloaded from BPIExpressonline. Very convenient.

Travel Insurance. I switched to Malayan Insurance for convenience. You can via credit card when you purchase your travel insurance and you can immediately download the insurance policy right after paying. You can download it again in case you lose it. Previously, I used Blue Cross because I can also pay online via BPI payments.  

Income Tax Returns. I am a consultant this time so I have to file and pay my own tax returns. I submitted my tax returns in the past two year (BIR Form 1701) and the corresponding receipt issued by the bank when I paid. 

Day of the visa application:
I selected a 9:00AM appointment. I was so scared of the MRT crowds that I really exerted effort to be at MRT North Avenue station the earliest I can: I was there by 5:55AM and I got off Buendia station by 6:20AM. I was in RCBC by 6:40. I spent time reading in Starbucks then headed to the German Embassy by 8:20 AM.

I lodged my name, then they asked me to leave my bag with laptop. In the embassy's floor, they asked for my passport then they gave me a number. I was asked to leave all gadgets. I waited for 5 minutes to be called, the interview lasted for another 5 minutes or so. The lady in my window (#3 I think) was very professional and asked direct questions. Over the course of the interview, she asked me 3x if I am married, was ever married, and if I had a child. I repeated 3x that I was not married, have never been married nor do I have children. She stamped a phrase in my application which is somewhat like "I have never been married or had a child" (the phrase is something like this) - then I was asked to sign. 

She asked how long I've had my current job(2 years and 4 months) and the nature of the company (I work for a non-profit project). She asked if I've been in Germany (yes, Cologne in 2011) and if I will be travelling alone (I am). I paid the Php 3,090/ 60 euros visa fee, then fingerprint scanning, then wrote my office address on the courier slip. She said 3-5 days processing. By 8:50, I was able to recover the bag I left. This was on a Thursday.

I was informed that the courier was looking for me at Tuesday, 5:10 PM  - I was already out by that time and I didn't leave any authorization letter. Wow, it took the embassy three working days only!

The courier came back the next day to deliver my passport. He came in around 4:30PM so I was able to receive the passport myself. I braced myself and opened the package. No white paper this time (a sign of denial when I applied in the Italian Embassy). I got a 30-day multiple entry. 


Europe, here I come again! 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

More Than Cumin: Food In Sri Lanka

I associate Sri Lankan food with Indian food.
Can't blame me. Both countries integrate cumin in their daily diet. 
I don't like cumin. I don't like spicy food. 
So what's there to eat for someone who dies with spice?

I got some breakfast from the hostel. Their continental breakfast is just okay. They have a "side spice" that you can sprinkle on everywhere. I left it untouched. 

Breakfast platter at Drift BnB Colombo

I enjoyed the meals that were served to me during my stay in Oasis Tourist Family Resort. The food was freshly prepared and tasted like it. They said that they grow their own cumin instead of buying from the shops. The store-bought cumin had preservatives in them. I didn't know how cumin plants looked like so I wasn't able to check. The guesthouse charged LKR 667 for a full Sri Lankan type meal. I know that I can probably find cheaper ones outside, but I really liked the convenience of eating at the guesthouse and taking my time doing it. 

I was so hungry I took a bite before taking a proper photo

This continental breakfast cost LKR 435. That is a fresh papaya juice. Yumyum!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Accommodation Review: Blue Wing Inn

I found the Blue Wing Inn via I booked a room to myself. The backpacking scene in Nuwara Eliya didn't seem to be thriving.  

The place is not located in the town center, but near the lake. Walking to town was 30 minutes each way, which was a nice manageable walk.

Getting there was easy for me because I hired a private vehicle to take me from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.
Narrow road.

The view going to the accommodation from the lake

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hiking in Horton Plains and Missing Baker Falls

Not a fan of hiking here. But I give it a shot from time to time.

I had ambitious plans of hiking in the challenging trail of Adam's Peak. I ditched the plan when I had a chat with some backpackers who have been there. Too much effort to do it plus I had to figure out how to get there from Nuwara Eliya. Nope. So I chose an easier hike: Horton Plains.

My guesthouse offered to arrange a tuktuk to take me to Horton Plains for LKR 2,500. Cheaper that what I expected - which is usually LKR 3,000 to 3,500. I had my breakfast packed to go. We left at 5AM. It was around one hour going to Horton Plains via tuktuk - faster if you use a car.

Entrance fees were still absurdly high. I had to pay a  total of LKR 3,560 that covered my entrance fee, parking fee and whatever charges. The ticket reflected a breakdown of all those charges. They charge too much, IMO.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Tea Terraces at Nuwara Eliya

I like tea. I still drink coffee but I've learned how to love tea these past few years.
Tita much? Hehe. 

Sri Lanka is known as a tea country. I wanted to take a peek at the mountains where tea is grown.

From Kandy, you can reach Nuwara Eliya via train or a private car. Figuring out how to buy the train tickets sent me in circles. Given the hellish bus ride I endured from Colombo to Dambulla, I decided to spend some money for my peace of mind and hired a private car to drive me and take me around Nuwara Eliya.  I found my driver-guide, Kamal, in Withlocals. I sent him a message, and we agreed on the date, time and price. 

With Kamal, my driver-guide to Nuwara Eliya

Kamal toured me around a university with this really awesome old tree with crazy branches.

An ampitheater

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Accommodation in Kandy: Lake Round Residence

I had a bit of a trouble finding the place at first because the pin in Google Maps is located in the other street. I called the owners and they were helpful in instructing me find the right location.

This is an old house near the lake, a perfect location. It can take around 25 minutes to get to the other side of the lake, where the tooth temple is, but it was a good scenic walk. Just be wary of the bystanders around the lake, during the day and most especially at night. The girl who assisted me was very helpful and cautioned me not to hang out around the lake at night because I was travelling alone.

Unassuming on the outside

I had a short wait in the living room while my room was still being prepared. They gave me a cold glass of iced tea. Refreshing.

The room is spacious, clean, and the bed is comfortable. I paid $24.62 * 144.81 = LKR 3,565 for one night in this ensuite double room.

The mosquito net is pretty regal

There's no airconditioning the room had a fan and it was pretty cool at night despite being humid during the day.

Excuse the mess. I create mess easily.

One Day and One Night in Kandy

There’s not much to write about Kandy. Lots of reviews say that it is touristy and does not offer a lot. I agree, but it is not “skip”-able.

I boarded a bus from Dambulla to Kandy. This is a frequent backpacker route so I wasn’t too concerned about my safety as a solo female traveler. I sat myself beside a local woman. I spotted a Caucasian couple in the bus. Two other pairs of travelers boarded the bus as it cruised along the highway. Not that brought me confidence that 1) I was in the right bus and 2) I will get off at the right stop. After two hours, the bus stopped in Kandy. Cost of the bus ticket was LKR 100.
I survived another bus ride.

The challenge was finding my way from the bus stop to the lake. My local simcard came in handy. But the problem was, the pin of the guesthouse was on the wrong spot! Had to call the house owner where they really were. I found it eventually. They confirmed that had the pin wrong. They don’t know how to fix it (I couldn’t help, I didn’t know either).

Walking from Kandy Bus Station to the lake

I chose a guesthouse that is walking distance from a lake. It was a long hot and humid walk from the bus station to the guesthouse – the Lake Round Residence. 

Huge lake

I asked the young female owner (or manager?) who attended to me if it was safe to go around at night. She answered a definite “NO. You are alone. Especially not around the lake at night because you are alone.” She advised me that if I find myself out there alone at night, I should take a tuktuk going back to the guesthouse and call them. With that, I game myself a curfew until sunset to explore Kandy.

Walking, walking and walking around the huge lake

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dambulla Homestay: Oasis Tourist Family Resort

I found this accommodation via while searching for cheap places to stay in Dambulla. I somewhat thought that Sri Lanka was teeming with cheap accommodation. I guess so, but these are the ones with no websites. I like pre-booking my accommodation to avoid the hassle of deciding where to stay when I land in a new place. 
This is not a sponsored post, I really use 

After a 5.5-hour bus journey from Colombo, I got off the Dambulla bus stop. There were no signs that it was the bus stop but I had my mobile data on and I was closely watching my location in the map. The guesthouse advised me to get off the bus stop and call them when I arrive - hence, a local simcard was really handy. I sat in front of a shop (I think it was a pawnshop and waited. I ignored the stares from passers-by. Fifteen minutes later, my host arrived in a tuktuk. We went to the main guesthouse to rest a bit (I really needed to rest) and I filled-out some forms. 

The main guesthouse

My host informed me that a couple was staying in my room but he had another room prepared for me which which was located in the annex. I stayed in their new guesthouse for the first night and two nights in their homestay. Both were nice and spacious (but do watch out for those annoying mosquitoes!) . 

The house reminded me very much of houses in Philippine provinces: there were a lot of trinkets in the house. 
They sell water here

The new-annex guesthouse is located around 500 meters after the homestay place. I hopped back into the motorcycle and we went there. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

On Top of the Rocks: Sigiriya, Pidurangala and Dambulla

WARNING: This is another one of my long blog posts with photos. 

My day began early at 5AM. I would like to say I was excited, but I was not. As years and travels go by, I grew some lazy bones and prefer to snuggle with the sheets.

Even adventures require some sort of work. 
It was a hot and humid morning in Dambulla. Not a stranger to that weather. The weather helped me get out of bed. 

I arranged my tuktuk via the guesthouse. They offered me a rate of LKR 1,500. I guess that's lower than the usual tourist rate of LKR 2,000. 

Fields during the tuktuk ride to Sigiriya

I read about the pricey tickets of tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. But I still frowned when I saw the rates charged by Sigiriya. 

$30/ LKR 4,260 for a day ticket?!?!?!?! Tickets for Angkor Wat was $40 for 3 days.
I knew that. But still. So much money for a day. Ugh. 


The sun came up and lit the grounds of Sigiriya. 

Sigiriya was a monastery with caves surrounding the rock caves with and without dripledges. King Kassapa I transferred the administrative center from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya and ruled Sri Lanka from Sigiriya. 

Then that huge rock-mountain came into view.
Now I got excited.
I may have started the day with a lazy outlook but this sure changed that. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Scorching My Feet in Polonnaruwa

I had to make a choice between Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. I chose Polonnaruwa because it was easier to get to via public transportation and I could be based in Dambulla.  

Polonnaruwa is an ancient kingdom and city in the northern central area of Sri Lanka. Take note of the spelling: single L, double N. I've seen ancient ruins before so I knew that exploring the complex would be awesome but repetitive too.

My hostel offered to arrange my tuktuk ride the day before. The owner knew the tuktuk ownder. I arranged my breakfast to be served at 8AM. While eating breakfast, I noticed that my hand was bare and I had to go back to my room and slip on my fake wedding ring.

Fake gold band as my fake wedding ring

We stopped at a "spice garden" first. It is a garden filled with spices. No need to buy anything, according to them. But I guess they sell agressively or ask for a tip at the end. I wasn't able to find out because when the guy learned that I was headed to Polonnaruwa that day, he just told my tuktuk driver to come back after my visit to Polonnaruwa. That's nice of him. But I didn't see him again because we didn't return to the garden. Well, I learned that black pepper and white pepper comes from the same tree, before he sent me on my way.

Polonnaruwa is almost 60km away from Dambulla. The tuktuk ride took almost 1.5 hours before we got to Polonnaruwa complex. I was charged LKR 6,000 for the tour. If you are willing to spend more, you can hire a car. Aircon pa! A tuktuk can only fit 2 passengers.

The tuktuk driver took me to the ticket office at first. The ticket costs LKR 3,550, $25. Quite pricey.

The complex is not completely fenced in. According to my tuktuk driver, some temples without fences can be entered illegally (without purchasing a ticket) with an unscrupulous tuktuk driver who charges less than the normal price.

Cows with ribs roaming freely in these gardens

Sun saluting by the lake

I knew that temples would look alike at some point, I was considering hiring a guide even if it was just for 2 hours. There were guides peddling for their services at the museum, where I bought the entrance ticket. I told my tuktuk driver I was considering one but he just said "No". I had to rephrase that "I wanted a guide" but he just said "No" again. I was really annoyed at him then. I was willing to spend for a guide even though I would probably forget most of what he will say, but he was against that. I just thought that maybe he thought their fees are unreasonable. Still, it was really annoying.

The Royal Palace and Citadel are probably the most iconic of the temples. Though these were just ruins, you can see the magnificence of the place from the enormity of the structure. It was easy to imagine that it must have been a massive and beautiful temple.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...