Walking Tour around Hong Kong

hong kongPhoto Credit: Carl’s Captures

I like to walk. It is when walking I get to appreciate a place, myself being in that place, and how the universe conspired to bring me to that place at that time. Sentimental and spiritual as it may seem, walking really has a different effect on me.

One of my favorite places to walk around in is Hong Kong. To begin with, it really is a place made for walking. Everybody seems to choose their feet over wheels when going from one place to another. For a place so busy, walking seems to give me enough time to absorb everything that is happening around, especially the local life.

Guided Walking Tours:

  • Big Foot Tour. Hong Kong locals who know the place like the back of their hand, Big Foot Tours offer 4-hour guided walks around the streets and outside the streets as well!
  • Little Adventures in Hong Kong. Led by National Geographic Traveler editor-at-large Daisan McLane, Little Adventures in Hong Kong meets the needs and wants of travelers. Aside from the usual routes, the tour group also organizes walking tours around the more urban areas so you can have a better perspective of the city life. You might be convinced to live in the area after joining a tour!

DIY Tours? Don’t miss out on the following:

  • SoHo. Its name is its address: South of Hollywood Road. This is where you can find the hippest restaurants where the hippest locals converge. From Italian to Spanish to fusion cuisine, everything is here!
  • Butao Ramen Shop. This ramen house is well worth the queue. Serving up only 300 bowls per day, Butao starts its day early with a buildup of a long line of hungry locals and curious travelers. You wait for 30 to 45 minutes to get seated for the best-tasting ramen you will taste all your life. Don’t believe me? Queue up to see, or rather to taste, for yourself!
  • Tsim Sha Tsui. While I like the outskirts, the heritage buildings and the ole-in-the-wall restaurants, I have to admit that I’m still a sucker for bright lights and blinding blings. In Hong Kong, there is an abundance of such, and all of them seem to be in Tsim Sha Tsui, where everything is cosmopolitan and chic.

Hong Kong is a traveler’s paradise. Take a detour from the usual route of Disneyland and museums by either joining a guided tour or creating your very own walking tour. From Manila to Hong Kong and back, you will definitely enjoy every bit of your trip if you use your feet with your eyes as you tour around. Enjoy!

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Five Reasons to Travel to Tagaytay

tagaytay

You might have gone to Tagaytay a number of times, but have you really explored the area for all its worth? Aside from the usual route that includes horseback riding at Picnic Grove and having your photo taken with the Taal Volcano as backdrop, there are activities, places and things that make Tagaytay an irresistible destination. Here is the top five.

Antonio’s

A lot of people will say that Antonio’s is the best restaurant in the Philippines. Most would agree, and the few who will doubt probably haven’t eaten in this gem of a restaurant yet. In fact, Antonio’s recently earned a spot in Asia’s top 20 restaurants! The food and the experience are expensive, but wouldn’t you want to find out what the fuss is all about? The long drive and the required reservation are all worth the steak. Yes, the steak is delish.

Boutique hotels

Tagaytay perhaps has the most number of boutique hotels in the Philippines. If you’re looking for a honeymoon place that is outside Metro Manila but not so far from the city, take your pick from the nicest boutique hotels in Tagaytay. Some of the favorites include The Boutique, T House, 8 Suites and Lee Boutique Hotel.

Fresh produce

The streets to and from Tagaytay are lined with stalls of fruits and vegetables. Never leave Tagaytay without buying a kilo or two of your favorite fruit! The prices are reasonable, and it’s nice to have fruits to munch on while on your way back to Manila.

 Accessibility + Cold Weather

Where else can you go to escape the hot Manila weather without spending so much time on the road and money on plane tickets? Tagaytay! If you can, invest in a vacation house here; it’s lovely. It is a short drive away from the metro (around an hour and a half if you don’t encounter traffic), and when you get there, you’d feel like you’re really someplace special. The chilly weather should be more than enough to make you feel that your trip is more than worth it.

The Taal Volcano

Admit it. Everytime you go to Tagaytay, you still eagerly look out the window of your car and hope for a nice view of the Taal Volcano. There’s this kid in all of us that just wants to take a long and hard look at that small volcano. But did you know that the famous Taal Volcano we always see in photos is only a caldera and not the real volcano? The crater is much bigger, and is hidden in the mountainous island you see behind the iconic caldera. Now you know!

Sagada Tour

rice terraces

breath taking view of the rice terraces

If you really are determined to go to Sagada, you need to psyche yourself that it is far from a tour. It is hardcore backpacking, it is a physical trip, and it is definitely not elegant. But the rewards of seeing magnificent views and achieving personal bests are worth more than anything. Let’s go?

Getting there

Although you can take a direct trip from Manila to Bontoc and then from Bontoc to Sagada, I suggest you take a Manila to Baguio trip (6 hours), spend the night in Baguio, and take the trip to Sagada first thing in the morning. This is especially if you are coming from a far place such as Davao. You don’t want to tire yourself boarding a plane at the Davao International Airport, and then traveling nonstop to Sagada. The ride up the mountains of Sagada will last for about 6 hours, a bumpy and dizzying one at that, so make sure you’re prepared with your byahilo medicine.

Touchdown Sagada

  • Drop by the municipal hall to register as tourists.
  • Check in to your chosen accommodation. Residential Lodge is a famous choice, with the ever-friendly Tita Mary who makes you feel that you have a home away from home.

Adventure Points

  • With the remaining hours in Day 1 of your itinerary, waste no time by going into the caves of Sumaging. Make sure you’re wearing your most comfortable clothes, for you will be sliding down slipper stones, holding on to them (bat poop and all), getting wet from the cold water flowing inside the caves, and just letting go of any inhibition and giving all of yourself to the adventure.
  • Echo Valley. The main point of going to Echo Valley is to shout and hear your echo bounce back from the mountains. If you don’t shout, you’re such a killjoy.
  • Underground River. This will take a long trek down a shallow river where you can finally wash your face and your feet. You wouldn’t take so long down there though, it’ll be a short stop.
  • Kiltepan Valley. Another loooong trek through the mountain, until you get to a clearing, and then to the edge of the mountain, where there’s a breathtaking view of Sagada – rice terraces, clouds and all.
  • Pomod-oc Falls. Called the Big Falls, Pomod-oc is a shockingly huge and strong body of water that the moment you get there, you will wonder how in the world can you brave the storm-like drops of water to take a dip in the river that looks like the passage to death. The trek down to the falls is extra exhausting and thrilling, as you will walk on the edges of rice terraces and on edges of the mountain. One wrong step and you’d have to be carried by your traveling buddies.

Other must-trys in Sagada:

  • The yoghurt in Yoghurt House. Even though there are now a lot of frozen yoghurt shops in Manila, nothing matches this one in Sagada. Have it with fresh bananas and blueberry syrup. It is the best!
  • Ganduyan Museum. This isn’t like any other museum. The owner of the museum, Tita Cristina, will personally discuss with you each and every artifact found in it.
  • Log Cabin. A French restaurant in Sagada? Why not?! The chef changes his menu once in a while, but feel lucky when you dine there and the broccoli with cheese is available.

Secrets of Frequent Travelers

Travel Agency

Why do they love to travel? How can they travel so frequently? Why can’t I enjoy traveling the way they do? Well, aside from the fact that they’re experts in all things travel, they also have some tricks under their sleeves. Want to be a savvy traveler who can get used to flying and going from place to place? Here are the secrets of frequent travelers.

  • Earn miles. This starts with getting a credit card that will let you collect miles whenever you book flights. Know which credit card gives the best points when booking with your airline of choice.
  • Watch out for seat sale alerts. You can check out Skyscanner for a comparison of the flights available for your preferred dates. You should also subscribe to email alerts that airlines send out whenever they have a seat sale. Most of my trips are care of Cebu Pacific seat sale alerts I received right on my mobile phone. There are cheap flights to Singapore as much as there are cheap flights to Manila. All it takes is awareness of the seat sales, and a decision to just book and think about the expenses later.
  • Pack light. This cannot be overemphasized. A huge bag will limit your enjoyment of a place, even if you bring your yaya along or even if you choose to rent a car. Learn how to plan your outfits and squeeze them all in a single, easy-to-bring yet roomy luggage, and bring a carry-on bag that can contain everything you need in the plane and on a stroll.
  • Be flexible. When you travel, expect your schedule to be ruined. When that happens, chill and skip all the whining. A frequent traveler knows that anything can happen during a trip, and he knows how to make the most out of it. Aside from changing schedules, you might also have to change hotels, skip some sights, or even sleep at the airport. These should all be part of the fun.
  • Bring a book. Your flight might get canceled or delayed. Instead of fuming at the airport personnel, thank the heavens for the time when you can finally finish reading the Twilight series. Never mind that you didn’t want to read it in public. When you’ve got nothing to do but wait, better to be kept company by Edward and Bella. Besides, you can always rely on the digital copy of the books, in Kindle or n your iPad. When someone asks you what you’re reading, simply say CS Lewis or Tolkien.
  • Don’t pack your schedule too tightly. A delayed flight can have a domino effect on a super packed schedule. Your itinerary should have ample gap times for when you need to attend to something, such as your kid getting sick or you wanting to spend more time in a favorite spot. This also gives you room for adjustments when your flight gets delayed or when a tour company screws up.

Travel Books to Read: Inspiring the Wanderlust

Nobody really needs convincing that it’s nice to go on a trip. That’s already a given. But you might need some pushing and inspiration so you can start saving up and planning that long overdue trip. Here are some books that will make you wish you’re flying to some exotic country, and will make you wonder why in the world haven’t you planned that holiday yet.

The Motorcycle Diaries 

This book follows the journey of Che Guevarra and pal Alberto Granada aboard a motorcycle. It speaks of how traveling changes a person, and how it can transform you from a nobody to somebody who cares about the world and who can do something about it.

The Alchemist

Still an inspirational book that will make you look deep into your soul, this masterpiece by renowned author Paulo Coelho tells the story of a man who journeys through the world to find his great personal treasure. Explore the fields of Spain, the deserts of Egypt and the beauty of Africa as the protagonist finds something beyond the physical.

Playing with Water – Passion and Solitude on a Philippine Island

A non-fiction book that talks of James Hamilton-Paterson’s stay in the Philippines, this book tackles the fun and rich culture of the Filipino people. It gives clear and attractive descriptions of the Philippine seas and environment, and also gives a glimpse to uniquely Filipino practices like politics in the village, superstitious beliefs, and yummy food.

On the Road

Jack Kerouac isn’t a famous author for nothing. On the Road, one of his popular works, brings us to his own footsteps as he journeyed through America, from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco. You’ll read nice poetic words, hear excellent jazz music, and take some amazing drugs – all while sitting down with the book. This piece should make you think of who your best traveling buddy is – one who’s more adventurous and crazier than you are.

Lonely Planet guide books

Just browsing through the pages of a Lonely Planet guide should already make you feel excited about going to a trip. What’s your dream destination? Paris? Pick a Lonely Planet Paris guide and just immerse yourself in all the information. Soon, you’re already booking your flights and writing on your piggy bank “Paris fund”.

The Beach

Although the story is scarier than it is exciting, it is thrilling enough to make you question yourself and what you’re doing (or not doing yet). This novel has inspired travelers to head to more exotic locations and buy airline tickets that take them to uncharted territories, in search of adventure and of the ultimate escape that the protagonists in the book experienced. If only you look like Leo diCaprio, then this novel will make the most sense.

Hipster Traveling: A Rough Guide

To be young and unique.

Emphasis on rough. Because if you’re hipster, you don’t play by hard and fast rules. Your mode of living is based on unwritten rules that you know because you’re hipster, not because you read it somewhere.

It’s still a puzzle to me, but it’s so interesting to live the carefree, cool life that hipsters do.  What better way to experience it than by traveling, hipster style. Here are some tips:

  • Skip the typical. What? No photo by the Eiffel Tower? If you’re hipster, you shouldn’t mind; or you should take a photo that’s as unique as your getup.
  • Speaking of getup, you should wear attention-getting clothes that do not necessarily come in bright colors. Most hipster go for the vintage look, but hipster girls can really go for the pretty and bold look.
  • Get inspired. Hipster traveling is all about being creative. A sculpture should raise questions about feminism, a street filled with people should inspire you to create a sculpture, and so on.
  • Be an advocate. No matter where you go, you should live out your advocacy. Whether it is saving the planet, supporting local music, or promoting equal rights for all, you should be a walking rally poster. Look for avenues to help; connect with organizations in the country or area that you’re visiting, and participate by extending your help. Being helpful never goes out of style, so they say.
  • Do something that most tourists wouldn’t. For instance, take a walking tour when everybody else prefers the bus – you’ll never know what you’ll encounter. Instead of watching buskers in New York, be a busker! Take a spot, play your guitar or do your awesome yoga poses, and just enjoy the experience.
  • Go vintage. A hipster appreciates the olden days. Find old books, first edition copies, old postcards, anything old that you can place on your cool workspace at home. Of course you’re a freelancer, it’s too mainstream to work in an office anyway. Make sure you check out the flea market, you might find a great looking fedora there.

Go cheap. A hipster wouldn’t order cocktails. He goes for the beer, the rough kind of drinks and food. He enjoys local culture more than anything, so he skips the five star hotel where you will meet tourists and employees, and chooses a family-owned hostel where he can chat with the owner and have a home-cooked meal. You can start by booking that cheap Air Asia flight to Cambodia, and by keeping in mind all the other tips listed above.

My favorite desserts around the world

Sometimes, all I can think about is vanilla ice cream, and whoever invented the ice cream is to blame. Now the bigger problem is when you get to taste wonderful desserts from your travels around the world. Good luck on finding them back home when you suddenly crave for the sweet goodness of these world famous treats.

Gelato: Italy

Perfect companion while strolling the streets of Florence.

 

It’s not just ice cream. Gelato has a different feel and texture to it – softer yet denser than the usual ice cream that you taste. Florence has the best shops such as Vivoli and Carabe.

Craving? Get it at Caramia or Amici. There has been a gelato craze in the Metro, prompting for more shops to open.

Baklava: Greece; Turkey

Baklava with pistachios and kajmak, very popular in Turkey

 

A thick pastry that is meticulously prepared, baklava originated from Turkey, but is now more known as a Mediterranean dessert. It is made of a dough called Phyllo, and is flavored with honey, lemon juice and sugar. It is really filling, and can pass as a merienda, not just as a dessert.

Filipinos are not huge fans of this dessert. But if ever you would like to try it, order it after a sumptuous meal at Café Mediterranean or Cyma.

Churros: Spain

I dream of this every time it rains.

Fried soft dough dipped in rich hot chocolate – that’s churros for you. Although you can have it plain, you can also try it in other flavor; cinnamon is quite popular. How do you know tat a churros is cooked well? It should be crispy on the outside and really soft inside. And don’t forget the hot rich thick chocolate syrup as the dip.

Dulcinea makes the best churros here in the Philippines. A single order gives you five pieces and a tasty dip. It’s a generous serving for one, but a little “bitin” for two.

Macaroons: France

Coconut macaroons : A recipe I’m determined to make perfectly.

If you dig really sweet stuff, macaroons should be your thing. A pastry made of icing, egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, it is shaped perfectly like two domes stuck together. They come in different colors, usually indicative of their flavor.

Bizu made French macaroons a regular sight in malls. Safe to say that they’re the local shop that you can count on if you want a taste of great flavors.

Black Forest: Germany

Who doesn’t want CAKE?!

If you think about it, the name sounds a bit German. It’s dark and bold, and really decadent. Chocolate cake with layers of icing and cherries soaked in liquor – this is what black forest is. Of course back then it was super expensive, especially considering the ingredients involved.

Here in the Philippines, black forest is quite popular. You can get it in famous bakeshops like Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, and also in gourmet pastry shops and restaurants. No need to take that long haul of a flight from Manila to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Germany.