Aigoo, Agoo Eco-Park (La Union)

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

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With the mere mention of La Union, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is the surf town San Juan. Ask further what else reminds them of La Union and most likely the following are the answers you’ll elicit: grape-picking in Bauang, Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel, the popular resto called Halo-Halo de Iloko in San Fernando City or even the Bahay-na-Bato in Luna. I am pretty certain that no one would mention about Agoo. Unless, perhaps, you ask a person what they think about this seaside town. Growing up in Elyu during my childhood years, I often associate the municipality with the following: the lovely Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, that giant concrete statue of an eagle called “Eagle of the North” (which is hard to miss when you take the Agoo – Pugo road going to Baguio, and the now infamous Miracle of Agoo that happened in 1993.

Recently, I have discovered (through my Instagram) a seemingly interesting place in Sta. Rita, Agoo. They call it “Agoo Eco-Park” which is a part of the Agoo- Damortis Protected Landscape and Seascape. I thought it is a newly developed area in this coastal town of La Union. I searched a little more, and I was surprised to know that it has been there since 2015. (Why haven’t I learned of this place earlier?)

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So yesterday, my brother, my nephew, and our pupperino Koukou went to check out this place. Since very little information can be looked up over the internet, we just took note of the barangay where it is located. This eco-tourism site is located at Sta. Rita West and Sta. Rita Central, in Agoo, La Union. If you are coming from Manila, you will have to pass by the town proper. The landmark you might want to take note is the Universal Leaf Philippines (a tobacco company that is hard to miss along the highway going to Ilocos). You will find a road on the left side with signage that says “Sta. Rita”. Go straight until you pass by the Sta. Rita Elementary School, and a local chapel. Then take that narrow, unpaved road to the left where a small guard station is seen at the left side. In here, you have to pay Php 15.00 per person as an environmental fee.

There is an on-going road improvement at the entrance. Go straight and the first part of the eco-park that will greet you are the lovely “agoho trees” beautifully lined on both sides of the road. Often mistaken as the common pine trees, these trees are actually flowering trees from the Genus Casuarina (Pharmacognosy 101 people) in contrast to Pine trees which are from the Genus Pinus. These trees have a resemblance with pine because of the apparent needles which are actually stems covered with dull-green scale leaves. These are the same trees one gets to see along the sandy shores of Zambales (think of Anawangin, Nagsasa or even Liwliwa).

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I personally like this part of the park. One can actually put up a tent or just bring out a picnic mat and you are ready to have a great time just staring at the trees and the nearby stream. There are no tables nor chairs (which I like) because it leaves that natural feel. I can imagine myself jogging or biking around the area too. Walking past this agoho-lined area are two eye-catching sceneries. To the left is a body of water (not sure if it is just a stream, a river, or a lagoon that adds beauty to the park; and to the left is a grazing area for cows with a small man-made like lake or lagoon (which I suppose is a source of water for the animals).

A few more meters of walking and you’ll reach the beach area. The very fine, gray sand – lined beach has a very wide and lengthy shoreline. It seems ideal for swimming, kite flying or just basking under the sun. There are also a few huts found, and a large space for parking is also available. If you still aren’t aware, this side of La Union offers a spectacular view of the sunset. That is why coming here in the afternoon is a perfect time – temperature wouldn’t be too scorching and of course, waiting for the sundown is a delightful experience.

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Another must-see area is the mangrove sanctuary of the eco-park. To get there, one has to exit from the road used as an entry point and go straight. A little over 50 meters, you’ll see a small road to the left, go inside until one reaches a small parking lot over-looking the mangrove area. Look to your right and you’ll find a beautifully constructed bamboo pathway to goes into the sea. Walk through it and I am pretty certain you’ll love the experience. This is perhaps my favorite spot. We further waited for the sunset at this side of the park. It was magical. I also saw a few birds in this part of the park and some locals fishing.

It was a surprisingly exquisite time spent at this eco-park. I wish to come back and maybe spend camping at night. It seems to me that this is a very promising eco-tourism destination in La Union. Kudos to those who have thought of planting the agoho trees. It really is a brilliant idea. In the coming years, I suppose, more and more people will come to see this area. I just hope that visitors (and the management) will do their fair share of keeping the park clean.

So there… Hope you get to relish this little adventure grounds La Union offers. Take it easy.

Philippines’ Beaches: What’s Not to Love?

The Philippines, being an archipelago, is dotted with innumerable pristine, sparkling beaches. Some white, others black, a few brown, and surprisingly pink too! We have beaches that are as fine as talcum powder to gritty, sandy ones, while others are pebble lined. Majority of these tropical paradise boasts off crystal clear water that comes in azure to turquoise colors. Regardless of the color and texture of beaches’ sand and water, Philippines’ seashores will make one’s “beach escapade” memorable and fun!

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Besides the obvious aesthetics of our beaches, here are other reasons why bumming around the beaches of the Philippines is a must doPhilippines’ beaches have a laid-back vibe, especially the small-town beaches and the off-the beaten ones. They are the ultimate relaxation zones perfect for experiencing serenity and peace of mind. One can go for an afternoon walk along the shoreline or sit down under shady palm trees while reading a book. Or just lie down, let the crashing waves touch your feet and the gentle wind kiss your lips. Totally relaxing and an awesome escape to a stressful life!

Philippines’ beaches have a laid-back vibe, especially the small-town beaches and the off-the beaten ones. They are the ultimate relaxation zones perfect for experiencing serenity and peace of mind. One can go for an afternoon walk along the shoreline or sit down under shady palm trees while reading a book. Or just lie down, let the crashing waves touch your feet and the gentle wind kiss your lips. Totally relaxing and an awesome escape to a stressful life!

Philippines’ beaches are home to various water sports and activities. From surfing, to snorkeling to SCUBA diving, kitesurfing, kayaking, island-hopping and many more. Plus, the marine life is teeming with wonders.  One will never run out of things to do. These activities can keep you fit and make your vacation more fun-filled.

Philippines’ beaches showcase some of the most jaw-dropping sunrise and sunset views. Everything turns into a picturesque, surreal nature art once the sun starts to rise. It is even more dramatic during sundown. Sunset by the beach is one thing I look forward the most.

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Philippines’ beaches are generally cheap. While some of our beaches are becoming more and more commercialized, I want to believe that majority of our beaches are still inexpensive, and some even for free. One could spend some time along the beach without worrying about spending much – paying for entrance fees or buying pricey food because again, the cost isn’t really high.

Philippines’ beaches are home to good and hospitable Filipinos. I want to think that Filipino hospitality is evident in almost all parts of the country – whether at the mountain villages, to seaside towns, and various rural areas. Most Filipinos are willing to lend a helping hand in whatever ways they could. Some families would invite you their homes, some would even cook the freshest sea catch of the day for their visitors to have a sumptuous meal.

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They say “life is a beach”. Whether you have a beach bod, dad bod or whatever kind of body figure you have, the beach is one welcoming place for you to experience life, to live life.

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

Captivating Auckland City

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From among the cities I have been the past 12 months, I have left a piece of myself in the City of Sails. The moment I have set foot in Auckland, I knew right there and then that I would love the city the way I have always loved my ex-girlfriend. I tried my best to think through the reasons why I have been enamored by Auckland but I almost always end up lost for the right words.

Because of this dilemma, I just opted to let you see this beyond alluring city through my lens. Here are some of my uncountable Auckland City photographs.

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

In Photos: Hong Kong

ong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, located at the southeastern portion of China. It is one of the most visited travel destination at this side of Asia because of its a vibrant, skyscraper-studded skyline and the many natural and man-made attractions. It also boasts off its highly urbanized centers as it is a well-established global financial hub. Furthermore, Hong Kong is a shopping paradise, and a food destination. Day or night, Hong Kong is simply mesmerizing.

Here are some snapshots during my brief Hong Kong visit. Will add more soon.

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

Tales from Trakai (Lithuania)

“The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.” ― W.H. Auden

Trakai, a town in Lithuania located south-west of its capital Vilnius and is a former capital city of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is a pretty small town surrounded by lakes, wherein the scenic Trakai Historical National Park can be found. To date, it has become extremely popular from among Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans as a vacation destination making it one of the most visited spots on the cultural tourism map. It has even become a major landmark of Lithuania.

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The town is small enough for everything to be walked on foot, but there are also buses running from the bus station (where the buses from Vilnius also arrive/depart) to the Trakai Island Castle. The Trakai Island Castle, a 14th-century Gothic residence with some Renaissance features of Lithuanian dukes, is the main attraction in the town and has become a symbol of medieval Lithuania. I have learned that during the summer season, a lot of concerts and plays are staged here.

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Locals would say that Trakai is full of myths and secrets. One version is that of the story of Gediminas, a grand duke of Lithuania and one of the strongest medieval rulers of Eastern Europe. One day, he decided to hunt near a place called Kernave, a medieval capital of Lithuania. During his search, Gediminas saw a stunning landscape with lakes and islands to which he decided to build a castle in the middle of one of the lakes. Another version is a more romantic one. It is about a lovely woman named Birute who was a wife of a local duke. She was born in a seaside town who felt lonely because she misses her hometown. To make her happy, her husband gave her a unique gift — a castle surrounded by lakes. So there. Of course, there were also historical accounts but I am not very certain about its details.

Other sites worthy to visit are the Trakai Peninsula Castle, (this is the older of the two castles of Trakai), the Saint Mary Church – an originally gothic church altered during the Baroque period; and Galvė Lake, a relaxing nature spot where sailing can be done.

There are also restaurants worth trying. Most of which are known to serve Karaitian cuisine. If you want to stay overnight, several accommodations are also found.

Trakai is indeed a fairytale-like town. The architectural, natural and cultural wonders all add up to a wonderful experience visiting this seemingly magical place. I have to admit that Trakai is one of my favorites during Europe travel because it was simply fascinating, and yes, romantic!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Romblon, PH

It’s a pretty lazy Sunday. So I opted to go through my Facebook photos and saw this Romblon album. It brought back memories of my stolen hard drive where all of my 2005 to 2013 HD travel photos were stored. Twas one of the most heartbreaking things that happened to me.

So I am reposting here the photos from my Hambil Island, Romblon in June of 2013. The photos were just downloaded from my FB so quality may not be very good.

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San Jose is a fifth-class municipality in the province of Romblon, Philippines. It is more commonly known as Carabao Island, or Hambil Island, and is located the southern tip of Tablas Island. It is in close proximity to the world-renowned Boracay Island, separated by a narrow body of water called Hambil Channel.

In June of 2013, during a trip to Boracay, I came to see what this Romblon paradise has to offer. I stayed 2 days and 1 night in this island and I must say that it is a more serene counterpart of its neighbor, and understated in terms of its natural beauty.

Once you are in the island, you can hire a habal-habal/ motorcycle for about P300-P500 per day. You can go visit notable spots like Lanas Beach (where sunset is amazing), be brave and do cliff diving at Kuding-Kuding and Angas Cliff (with a P100 entrance fee) or just stay at Hambil Beach which can rival Boracay’s white sand beaches (plus a spectacular sunrise view). You could also rent a boat that could bring you around the island and check some hidden caves and coves.  The over-all ambiance of Hambil is pretty laid-back… Really a great way to commune with nature.

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How to Reach Hambil:

From Caticlan Port: One may charter a tricycle to take you to Tabon Baybay, it is where you can find the port of boats going to Hambil (San Jose). A passenger boat leaves for Poblacion or Lanas, daily between 8AM to 9AM. So make sure you don not miss it. The travel time is around 1 hour (depending on the waves (which by the way can be really scary. The fare is P80-P100 per passenger. The trip back to Caticlan is between 5AM to 6AM. It is pretty early so you have to be early as well so you won’t be left behind.

Another option is from Boracay. In here, one may charter a boat good for 10 people for aboutP3,000 to P4,000 round trip day tour. Make sure to practice your acting and haggling skill. The travel time is about 45 minutes to an hour. Again depending on the sea condition. The boat will either dock at Brgy Lanas or at the Port of Said in Brgy Poblacion on the eastern side where Hambil beach is.

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

Moon Fools: An EcoTourist Hostel (Bohol, PH)

It’s true that learning is a lifetime process. As an active traveler, I have come to realize that I am fortunate to learn a lot of things through various means. One thing traveling has taught me about (and is continuously teaching me) is the concept of “ecotourism”.

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The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” This “take only pictures, leave only footprints” approach also is termed by others as ethical or responsible travel, and green or nature travel. With these terms and definition at hand, I don’t totally consider myself as one but I am trying my best to be one.

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And so when I met the owners of a unique hostel in Panglao, Bohol, who are both advocates of ecotourism, my interest in becoming ecotourism conscious was brought to a higher level. My conversation with Mari was one of those that reminded me of how much impact can I do as a traveler.

As someone who is conscious of his travel spending, it has dawned in me that we really do not need much money for us to become a more eco-friendly traveler. And one action I frequently do is by staying at a hostel. I’ll save for another post the reasons why I love staying at hostels. In the meantime, here are some ecotourism tips that I believe will help us travel-enthusiasts to travel more sustainably AND responsibly.

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*How about PACKING LIGHT: While most people know that a lighter baggage means saving money on check-in baggage fees, not everyone is aware that lighter load also means increasing the plane’s fuel-efficiency. This is one thing I had to remind myself every now and then because I used to pack really heavy! Now, I make sure I pack items that are light weight, quick drying, easy washing, and fewer clothes.

*SAVE ENERGY, SAVE WATER: Make sure that when you leave your room, you turn off everything that consumes energy from your AC, TV, lights, gadgets and the like. When taking shower, turn off the water outlet while shampooing your hair, or brushing your teeth. I love that Moon Fools have these little reminders randomly posted in their hostel.

 

*My mother mountain taught me to LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS, all the time. This is to avoid harming native flora and fauna. Also, bring your own trash bag (especially during hiking and long travels). This is a very simple way of maintaining the outdoors/ nature beautiful.

*BE ONE with the LOCALS Take time to immerse yourself in the local scene by talking with the local people, and experience their culture — be it arts, food, music, and the like. Respect the differences you notice, respect their practices, and their laws. Also, support local goods and crafts. That way, you are also helping their community.

These are just some of those that I do whenever I travel. And I am glad I share most of these insights with Moon Fools Hostel’s staff and owners.

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Moon Fools Hostel caught my attention when I was looking for a place to stay at prior to my Bohol trip. It wasn’t there yet when I last visited Panglao in 2015. Without much information about this hostel, I relied on my instinct that it’s probably one of those few accommodations I’d love. And boy I was right… The moment I entered the hostel, I already knew that it was my kind of hostel – an eco-friendly one.

I was happy to have had a great conversation with one of the owners, Mari. That is when I have learned that she and her husband are very passionate about the environment. So it isn’t surprising that the materials used in the construction of their hostel are mostly recycled. It is very admirable as to how they have made use of recycled materials from their curtains (coffee sack) to pillowcases, bedsheet, plastic cups turned into plant pots, lamps from old jars, and even recycled wood materials turned into chairs and tables. Moon Fools Hostel shows that the very essence of recycling is re-using.

 

 

My stay at Moon Fools also comes with a simple breakfast that you get to prepare on your own. It usually consists of oats, raisins, mallows, some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg plus your choice of drinks (coffee, tea, or chocolate). Plus bananas too!

I also like the fact that they have these little ecotourist reminders all over their place – from the bathroom to the dining area. The local staff of Moon Fools is the usual endearing and respectful Boholano people. During my 2-night stay, I have noticed that I was the only Filipino. Most of my roomies were Europeans, and the other visitors I got to know were Koreans, Chinese, and Australians!

And oh, you’re probably wondering why Moon Fools… Mari told me that they have this fascination for full moon and the stars that is why various moon artsy stuff is seen inside the hostel, And I agree when she said that we are all over the moon about something or foolish at one point in our lives. I like that!!

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What else to expect with Moon Fools Hostel:

  • All rooms have air conditioning.
  • Free WiFi is available from the lounge area to the rooms.
  • The hostel offers airport shuttle services at an extra charge.
  • The hostel has a shared communal bathroom.
  • A 24-hour convenience store, a cafe and a restaurant are found on the 1st floor of the hostel.
  • There are motorcycles and bicycles for rent.
  • Water sports facilities are also available.

Moon Fools Hostel
Address: Ester A. Lim corner Hontanosas Road, Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol.
Contact Number: 0925-588-9868
E-mail Address: hostelmoonfools@gmail.com
Facebook Page: Moon Fools Hostel

Don’t worry guise, the hostel is conveniently located along the main thoroughfare. It is a good 5-10 minute walk to the beach and various cafes, restaurants, ATM and the like.

If you’ve stayed at Moon Fools, how was your experience? I hope you had a great time as much as I did.

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