Portugal Kitang Hinintay

Dear Portugal,

Portugal kitang hinintay (can be translated as “I have long waited for you, Portugal)!, Was I happy? Are you kidding me? I wasn’t happy! I was enamored, over-whelmed (insert all superlatives here). Okay, so how did the desire to visit this travel destination start? Read along…


2013. I was watching Leg 4 of the 23rd season of the Amazing Race. This Leg was filmed in Portugal, and the detour task then was a choice between putting together a life-size puzzle using porcelain tiles or retrieving a giant-sized compass at a monastery called Jeronimos (with which the team will use it to map out the distance traveled by Ferdinand Magellan). Search on Youtube should you be interested to see more of what happened during that episode. Because of this feature on Portugal, I randomly tweeted “makes me wanna see Portugal #AmazingRace”.

Since then, I always have Portugal in my list of “Places I want to Visit”. You see, I often jot down the things I want to accomplish, and that includes enumerating in my journal the places I want to see. (If only you’d get a peep at my personal notes, you’ll see a loooong list, hahaha). Last year, I managed to go to Europe for the first time. It was a 10-week backpacking across the continent. At the end of that one-of-a-kind solo adventure, I realized that I wasn’t able to put into fruition my desire to set foot on Portugal. (Magellan must be really disappointed in me). I, myself, was tad disappointed. I guess it wasn’t the right time, just yet.


Fast-forward 2018. Another opportunity to visit Europe came about. This time, I made sure that Portugal is on top of my list. I asked my boss at work if I could go for a vacation after my work-related travels, and boy I was glad he would allow me to. Just this 1st week of May, my long-time longing of seeing, experiencing Portugal came into realization. And wow, what an experience!

The moment I set foot outside the Porto airport, and that time I left the Lisbon airport, everything that happened in between during my stay in Portugal was just beyond happy, memorable, and nothing short of amazing! My first post on my social media accounts about Portugal was all praises, and words of admiration. I was all smiles sharing stories about Portugal, and I feel genuinely happy reminiscing every bit of my experience. When someone asks me why I speak so much joy and love for this Iberian nation, I end up being speechless just because.


You know that feeling when you are in love and you are being asked what made you fell for that person you love? You just can’t put it into words. I try, but, I think I am failing big time. I mean, I have lots of reasons in mind but I just can’t seem to find the proper way to put them into words. It felt like Portugal and I were fated for each other. Hahaha. Okay, I may be a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, I will try one more time in this write-up to share reasons why “a feeling of certainty” came over me when I was in Portugal. I hope that the photographs I took will suffice what you would perceive maybe lacking later on.

I find Portugal’s Porto and Lisbon to be vibrant, and really charming. It felt like these cities have a pinch of something from the various European cities I have visited since last year. I’d be hypocritical if I’d say I didn’t set some expectations prior to my visit. Having been elected as the BEST European destination for 3 years — 2012, 2014 and 2017, Porto, specifically made me really excited. But I had to manage my expectations as well since I was already getting jaded of seeing street murals, cobblestone streets, historical monuments, museums, and the like. BUT, both Lisbon and Porto will prove you and your anticipated boredom, mistaken!


Porto is amazing BECAUSE:
The view overlooking the Douro River is just impeccable. The colorful houses that dot the riverside, the Dom Luis metal bridge, the sighting of the Rabelo boats, the unsullied cold air wafting at my cheeks while atop Mostero da Serra do Pilar – were just too good to be true. Except that they were real and really lovely.

Walking along the narrow (and sometimes confusing) cobblestone streets seem to have transported me back in time. Every corner of which is “instagrammable”, hence one MUST stop every now and then to capture some moments.

It’s romantic! How do we know that a place is romantic? We just do! Or maybe the old art deco cafes, the street graffiti, and other architectural wonders (from churches to museum to apartments) within the city all contribute to this romantic sense.

Just like Lisbon, the mode of transportation, especially their tram and train, are not just cool ways to travel but are also aesthetically delightful pieces you’ll see in Porto.


Lisbon is love BECAUSE:

Food is splendid. From the renowned “Pastel de nata” (Portuguese tarts) to their bacalhau, and seafood risotto — every restaurant and cafe I ate left me feeling tremendously gratified, without being guilty of spending much on food.

I am such a big fan of murals and street art. Colorful tiled buildings are everywhere. One thing I have noticed while walking along the streets of Lisbon, graffiti on walls (even houses), and abandoned buildings (with some garbage) are everywhere. BUT, unlike other cities I have seen with this similar depiction, I didn’t feel perilous. Instead, the shabby vibe added to the charm I mentioned earlier. It made Lisbon have a more distinct personality.

I love long walks through meandering and hilly paths. Reaching the top portion of these hills (whether you are on a castle or some random viewpoint within the city), you will be rewarded with an all-encompassing view of the city and its picturesque classic red-roof houses.


I love the people I have met. As my travels get more frequent, the people I meet in a certain place is now a big factor towards the creation of a long-lasting impression. And the Portuguese surely made a positive impact on me for they are genuinely helpful and approachable (especially in time s I find myself getting lost). Special shout out to the staff/people I met at the hostel I stayed at!


There are other reasons why I fell in love with Portugal but I am leaving those for you to find out. I left Portugal with admiration and respect. The way it impressed me has been lingering since I got back home here in the Philippines. It made me realize that just like people, only a few places will leave a lasting impression. And now, I have come to recognize why a lot of people speak highly of Portugal. I do, too, now. And as my plane took off from the Humberto Delgado Airport, I said my prayers of gratitude and hoped that soon, I will get to see Portugal again.

Most of my travels started as a dream, which eventually became part of my goals. I did put them into writing, wrote down possible steps how to achieve them. I directly and indirectly claimed they will happen. And guess what? A lot of them already did.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy.


Travel Memorabilia

Hello friends! It has been more than a month the last time I have made an entry here. I just came from yet another pretty tiresome, but definitely fun-filled series of travels. I will try to post some of these recent adventures sometime soon. In the meantime, here is a short sharing of what I love to buy and bring home during travel.

Traveling is a very rewarding experience. After a trip, one goes home with innumerable mementos — from incomparable life lessons to new found friends, to of course uncountable photographs, and memories to cherish a lifetime.

Aside from these, I have also developed a habit of bringing home a physical memorabilia that comes in different forms. Before, I would make sure I get to buy at least a keychain or a fridge magnet as a souvenir from my trip.

Today, i have gone beyond these usual stuff. Whenever I go on a travel, I alot a certain amount of my money to buy some of the things I personally collect. Some of these include miniature building decors/displays like an Eiffel Tower from France, a Burf Khalifa and Burj Al Arab from my Dubai travel or a Milad Tower I bought in Iran from a recent trip and many more.


Also, I make sure that I have a paper bill and some coins to spare for my currency collection. Some of my friends actually like these as my pasalubong to them since some of them also have this kind of colkection. I happen to collect also Starbucks tumblers and diecast planes. I am even starting to collect some books and dolls unique to a certain place I have visited. And lastly, I also bring home some paintings which I plan to use as wall decors when my dream of putting up my own cafe comes into fruition.

I know these are just material mementos and the memories that go with the travel are still far more important. Nonetheless, it feels good to see tangible reminders as to how awesome one particular trip was.


Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Beyond Phuket’s Beaches (Thailand)

The first thing that comes to mind by the mention of Phuket, Thailand are its beaches. Most tourists come to this tropical paradise because it is lined with many beautiful beaches to choose from without going on an island-hopping. True enough, the sandy beaches and clear waters of Phuket offers a refreshing beach experience. But more than these pristine seashores, Phuket also offers other must-see, must-experience places, and activities. Read more about PHUKET BEACHES here.


Visit The Phuket Big Buddha
Bangkok maybe the choice of place if one is up to seeing Buddha landmarks in Thailand, but Phuket has its fair share. At 45 meters high, the humongous Buddha of Phuket is one of the major landmarks in all of Phuket. It is perched atop Nakkerd Hills and is visible in certain viewpoints of Phuket. I love the panoramic view it offers. The Buddha reminds me of some Myanmar pagoda because the Burmese white marble it is made of sparkles when the sun is shining vibrantly during the day.


Go temple hopping
There are many temples in Phuket just like most key places in Thailand. But Phuket’s largest and most revered temple is Wat Chalong. I was surprised that there is actually a lot to see. There is Poh Jao Wat, a temple that houses two statues (Ta Khee-Lek and Nonsi). However, the main landmark is the beautiful Grand Pagoda. It is beautifully adorned with Buddha images and pictures that depict his life story. Chalong Temple is located almost 10 kilometers South of Phuket town and just east of Kata beach in the South Eastern corner of the island.


Walk Around Phuket Old Town
This is my favorite part of my Phuket visit. Phuket Old Town is the provincial capital of Phuket. I like old towns because they reflect so much of a place’s history. One can visit various Buddhist and Chinese temples, stunning and colorful “shophouses”, some street murals, and of course market that sells some cheap stuff. The best way to explore the old town is on foot. It isn’t big so it would be very much manageable to move around.


Turn Your World Upside Down
Baan Teelanka, or Upside Down House of Phuket, is one exciting attraction in Phuket. As the name would imply, this beautiful pink house stands upside down in a garden like setting. Once you enter, you’ll be amazed as to how everything is turned “upside-down.” Posing for pictures would bring out the creative juices in you. I appreciate that their guides have some excellent pose suggestions. I am amazed that even the fishes inside the aquarium are swimming upside down. So cool!

Baan Teelanka is open daily 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Price for the House: Adult 250 Baht, Kids 150 Baht (4 to 11 years old) Price for the Maze 150 Baht, Kids 100 Baht (4 to 11 years old) Tel: 076 376 245


Learn more about Cashews:
I looove cashew nut, so when I was told that Phuket is also known for cashews, I didn’t mind visiting one of its cashew factories. In fact, the Sri Bhurapa Orchid was the first cashew factory in all of Phuket. A stop at this shop will give every visitor an opportunity to be shown around. There are various stations where one can have a taste test of the juice of the cashew nut, an area where cashew nuts are processed, and another one where the nuts are packed. I was so happy to see also various flavored cashew products. True enough, a tour of a cashew nut factory in Phuket is a must for cashew nut lovers like me.


A night out at Bangla Road
If you are a party-person, then a night out at Bangla Road will surely delight your soul. After sundown, Bangla Road gets closed to traffic, and the street turns into a big party place. Restaurant and bar owners will lure you with beer, girls and other forms of entertainment. It surely is a fun-filled district of Phuket!


Learn more about Elephants
I am pretty sure, riding an elephant is on your bucket list. But wait, I hope that instead of riding, why not just visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and learn why you should never ride an elephant. I highly support ethical elephant tourism, so I discourage people I meet not to ride on them. A picture with them is more than enough.


Feed Monkeys at Khao Rang Viewpoint
Khao Rang viewpoint offers a good look out over Phuket, its islands and hills. One can also dine in one the restaurants in the area. Just be mindful because there are monkeys here. I have an unforgettable experience in this place when one money attacked me because of the food I was eating. Good thing nothing bad happened to me although for a moment I thought I’d die. Hahaha. So next time, you should have some extra food for these monkeys.


Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. take it easy everyJuan.

If you happen to be in Phuket and you want to be assisted with your tour, check out TAKE ME TOUR and their various itineraries. Check on the link! And mind you, they also have other organized tours all over Thailand!



Snapshots from Stockholm

Stockholm – a beautiful city on water. Where modernity meets tranquility. With its vibrant, trend-setting cafes and restaurants; lovely buildings, and idyllic coastline – Stockholm is a feast to the sense of sight.

Here are some of my photographs in Stunning Stockholm, Sweden!


Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Divine Mercy Shrine (Misamis Oriental, PH)

Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination. Swami Sivananda



The Divine Mercy Shrine, a Catholic monument in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental in the Philippines, is a 50-foot statue considered to be the biggest in Asia. It serves as the main feature of Divine Mercy Hills, a pilgrimage site built on a nine-hectare land overlooking Macajalar Bay.

Mass Schedule at the Divine Mercy Shrine

In order to reach the statue, one has to trudge several flights of stairs. (one that is similar to Kamay ni Hesus in Quezon province, only that this one is shorter). Make sure you have enough water to hydrate yourself as it can be really warm during the day.

Today, thousands of Divine Mercy devotees come to this sacred site, especially during the Holy Week. It has become a top destination for pilgrims all over the country. Masses are held daily at the shrine’s chapel.

Please be mindful that visiting such sacred place require proper attire. Visitors are not allowed to wear shorts and other revealing clothes. In the event that you are wearing one, you will be asked to cover yourselves with a blue cloth provided by the shrine administrators.

Have you been to this pilgrimage site before? If so, how was your experience?

My visit to the Divine Mercy Shrine was part of my Northern Mindanao trip in April of 2014.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.


Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village (New Zealand)

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.                     – Mahatma Gandhi

When I am being asked about which 3 things I enjoyed the most during my New Zealand trip, I usually enumerate the following: my Hobbiton trip, the sunset, and ganet experience at Muriwai Beach, and the visit at Whakarewarewa, a Living Maori Village. (And yes, the challenge when you have to say the name of this village).


The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand who are said to have originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia and arrived in New Zealand by way of canoe voyages. They come in different tribes, and in the town of Rotorua, a tribe called Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao have welcomed local and foreign visitors into their village and has openly shared their way of life, including their land’s geothermal reserves.

Whakarewarewa, the Living Māori Village, allows every visitors a chance to experience a genuine Māori Village wherein the people live on a daily basis as they make use of the natural geothermal resources to bathe, cook, and even provide warmth to their homes.

The village features the renowned Pohutu geyser, several boiling mud-pools, steam vents, and even bubbling pools. During the village tour, I also saw how the residents prepare Hangi meals in using in-ground steam boxes and cook corn in the bubbling water of their geothermal hot pools.


Hāngī food is said to be traditionally wrapped in flax leaves however, the modern Hāngī is likely to substitute the leaves with cloth, aluminum foil, and or even wire baskets. The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is then covered with a wet cloth and a mound of ground that traps the heat from the stones around the food. It is left for about three to four hours, depending on the food (whether fish or chicken) and quantity being cooked. I tried their hangi pie and it was surprisingly good.


Our group was very fortunate to have a highly enthusiastic and informative Maori guide during the village tour. It was a great avenue to understand the history of the area, how the people manage to live in a challenging environment like Whakarewarewa Valley, and of course get to know more about the different historical landmarks within the village. This includes an active Marae (a fenced-in complex of carved buildings and grounds that belongs to a particular iwi or tribe), a World War II Memorial Archway, two historical churches, and tapu (sacred) burial grounds.


The most exciting part of this visit was the cultural show wherein performances happen at 1:15 am and 2:00 pm. It was such a delight watch and listen as the Kapa Haka group of performers sing and dance some beautiful Maori song and dances. It was such an entertaining show.


Fast Facts about Whakarewarewa Village:

  • Opening hours Daily (except for Christmas Day) 8.30am to 5 pm.
  • Guided tours on the hour from 9.00am with the last tour at 4.00pm.
  • Maori Cultural Performance times are 11.15am and 2 pm.
  • It is best to book online.

Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village

Phone:    +64 7 349 3463

Email:    info@whakarewarewa.com

Physical Address: 17 Tryon Street, Whakarewarewa Village, Rotorua, New Zealand

Postal Address: PO Box 6148, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, New Zealand

You can check their website for booking and for more information. http://www.whakarewarewa.com/)


Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJUAN.