SAGADA Beyond the Usual Itinerary

For a couple of weeks now, I have been feeling stressful at work. I have been planning to go somewhere the past weekend to just chill and relax but I always end up staying in bed or just giving in to the whims of my family and some friends. Also, I have always been eyeing on a possible return to Sagada because it has been a while since the last time I was there. I guess the thought of that long bus ride during weekends is just to tiring. However, after acknowledging to myself that work has been really burning me out, I made a spontaneous decision to push my long overdue Sagada return. This was further ignited when a friend of mine recommended me to stay at a seemingly relaxing place that is not yet known from among travellers and tourists.

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The next thing I know, I was already inside the 3a.m. Lizardo Lines bus, sleepy and no concrete itinerary at all. However, at the back of my mind, my goals for this trip are: to gather my thoughts and have my dwindling supply of motivation be rejuvenated.Having been to Sagada 8 times between 2007 and 2014, I have to say I have done the usual “tourist activities. So here is my “beyond the usual Sagada itinerary” over the weekend.


Staycation. Staycation at a relatively unknown (slightly operating) accommodation a good friend offered me to stay at. They call it “Shire of Sagada” Looking at the photos, you will automatically decipher why it is called such. To my friends who’ve been asking about details, I will post soon contact number and possibly rates as the owners are yet to officially launch it.

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Bring a book to read. I brought with me a Haruki Murakami book that I get to read from time to time, even in between walking and resting while trekking my way to some unknown Sagada woodlands near my accommodation.

Explore off the radar restos. I went to eat at restos/cafes that are off the tourists’ radar. It is nice to try the unpopular one’s and you’ll be surprised as to how cheap they can be. Although I went to eat yoghurt at the Yoghurt House and have a slice of lemon pie at the Lemon Pie House because I can’t help myself not to. You can’t blame me if my palate misses them after not visiting Sagada for 5 years and 4 months.

Walk – whenever, wherever. I just walked around whenever I feel like doing it. I did not want to pressure myself that I should go see this or that place. I literally just walked wherever I wanted to without a certain pace. I walked the main street stopping every now and then checking out what is new, grab some street food to munch or just go randomly take photos. I even trekked my way to a relatively unknown pine trail passing by some rice paddies.

Sleep. Rest.Having just arrived from a 3-month Europe trip, my sleep hasn’t been going well. Jetlag must’ve hit me terribly. So, I promised myself to grab as much sleep as I could while in Sagada though it was tough not to wake up really early for the sunrise. But yes, I did a lot of lazing around while reading a book.

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Try local beer! Go drink a glass of beer… At a brewery… Inside a pine forest. I may have been to Sagada several times but it was my first time to go see the Sagada Cellar Door, known for their craft beer. And even though I ain’t a beer drinker, I just had to try it since a Php250 fee is a must pay (but is consumable). I had my beer with a delicious, spicy sausage!

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Wait for the sunset and sunrise.I wanted to watch the sunset at Lake Danum, something I have done during my 2nd Sagada trip. BUT, my legs were too tired from walking so I didn’t push through. But lo, and behold! The sundown was visibly stunning when I was at Sagada Door Cellar. Despite the high pine trees, the tangerine hue from the drifting sun swathed the forest.So yes – to watch the sundown somewhere I didn’t intend to watch it – CHECK!

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As an early bird, waking up early isn’t really much of a problem. Just like my initial plan for sunset watching, I wanted to wait for the sunrise at Kamanbaneng Hill (aka Marlboro Hills). However, the same excuse as to not going to Lake Danum applies. Marlboro requires extra time and effort of walking. So when I woke up the following day, I gazed outside my window and I was greeted with a pretty sunrise. I guess my wish to view the sunrise from some place no one knows happened! Yay!

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Laugh with locals.What makes an experience unforgettable is our encounter with people we meet along the way. As I was staying at a local family’s house (being turned into a homestay), I had a great time talking with the owners. It was a happy feeling laughing my heart out while sharing stories with locals around a fireplace, which in turn kept my sometimes cold heart and feet, warm.

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It was a short but relaxing weekend in my happy place. I pray that all these good things would happen again. So there, I hope you would have the courage to treat yourself a well-deserved getaway. Believe me, the mind, the heart and the body will love this kind of pampering.

Shout out to Mitch Pelayo’s fam for having me, and to Robin for the recommendation.

Cheers to spontaneous weekend getaways! Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

G.O.T Memories in Dubrovnik, Croatia

I did not go to Croatia (Dubrovnik specifically) because of the series, “Game of Thrones” or the relatively new Pinoy series, “Make It With You”. I was never a fan of  GOT and I am just recently liking the latter. My desire to to visit this Balkan country came about because a friend of mine had awesome stories (years wayback) prompting me to include this country in my travel bucketlist. The next thing thing I knew, I was already booked and the rest is not history, but is shown in this post.

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And so before I am totally corrupted by my laziness, feast your eyes on how charming Dubrovnik is through these photographs! Taking it from the GOT reference, Dubrovnik as an experience is Great, Otherworldly, Tantalizing (G.O.T)! The moments I had are now some of my all-time favorites.

Both the sunrise and the sunset are magical in Dubrovnik. The Adriatic Sea is just lovely when the golden glow wraps its waters.

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Old Town Dubrovnik is probably one of the most beautiful “old towns” I have visited in Europe! Every corner is picturesque!

They also have lovely beaches with crystal clear, turquoise water that is very inviting (only that it is freezing at this time of the year – December).

I was, for a moment, lost for words… and truly happy I got the chance to experience this place.

PS: All photographs were taken using my phone camera.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

 

Malmö o Mahal Ako (Sweden)

Malmö is a coastal city in southern Sweden that is in close proximity to Copenhagen, Denmark. It lies at the eastern end of an amazing man-made wonder, the Öresund Bridge, a long road and railway bridge–tunnel running to Copenhagen, Denmark. It is the largest city of the Swedish county of Skåne, the third-largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg, and the sixth-largest city in the entire Scandinavia.

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Some noteable sights in the city are: Lilla Torg, a cobblestone square with cafes, half-timbered houses and shops selling local handicrafts; the Malmö Castle which is a 16th-century fortress that houses nature, history and art exhibits. The Turning Torso, commanding, neo-futurist residential skyscraper and the tallest building in all of Scandinavia. It was built and is owned by Swedish cooperative association HSB and is regarded as the first twisted skyscraper in the world.

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Here are some photographs I took during a day trip to Malmö from Copenhagen via train through the Öresund Bridge.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. take it easy.

BAGA: A Spanish Medieval Village

Bagà is a Spanish municipality located at the head of the valley of the Llobregat river, at the foot of the high mountains of the Cadí range in Catalonia, Spain. The town itself is at 785 metres above sea level making this medieval community chilly in temperature.

My day trip to this place was a quiet, serene one. The town is really small with some of the following as the places that might interest you. Plus the small streets/ alleys are very picturesque too.

  • Sant Esteve de Bagà — is the parish church of the town, built between the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • Santuari de la Mare de Déu del Paller is a neoclassical sanctuary two km outside town, dedicated to the town’s patroness, the “Virgin of the Haystack”
  • Plaça Porxada, the town’s central square, built in the 13th century
  • Placa Galceran de Pinos, another interesting gathering area of the town.
  • Parc Naturel de Cadi-Moixero, which is a lovely hiking destination in the area.

I was in Barcelona when I did this day trip trip. It is approximately 1.5 hours from Barcelona.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy.

Hallo, Oslo!

Oslo – Norway’s capital since 1814, is also its largest city and is regarded a cosmopolitan hub. Without any expectation in mind, I visited this year’s European Green Capital with a “surprise me” attitude.

The picturesque Oslo Opera House

According to the city’s official website, Oslo is one of Europe’s fastest growing cities this decade. It is a diverse centre with a richness of top-notch architecture, museums, restaurants and shopping.

Vigeland Sculpture Park
The Viking Museum, one of the many museums within the city.
Some interesting sculpture one gets to see while walking around the city.

My trip to Norway completed my desire to set foot on all 5 Scandinavian countries. I got to visit Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark wayback 2017.

Anyway, here are some of the landmarks that captivated my heart during a brief visit in Oslo, Norway.

Beautiful Frogner Park

Don’t be wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust! Take it easy.

Glamping at Valleypoint (Tuba, Benguet)

Valleypoint is a camping ground and event center situated in the mountain valleys of Tuba in Benguet, Philippines.

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They offer the following services:

Prices may changed without prior notice:

A Daytour Package will cost 500php ·

What are included:

  • – Unlimited brewed coffee
  • – Free all-day breakfast
  • – Airsoft coupon: 150 rounds rifle; or Archery
  • – Access to camper’s chill area, board games, card games, darts, books, campsite, restaurant and bar, view deck, rest rooms
  • – Free parking
  • – Up to 70% cash discount on archery & airsoft maze.

Tent Package or Glamping Experience.

The rate varies depending on the number of people. Rates are as follow: Solo – 1,350 php 2 pax – 1,250 php/head 3 pax – 1,000 php/head 4 pax – 850 php/head

  • Inclusions:
    – Waterproof, dual layer, all-weather tent
    – Uratex foam/s
    – Blanket/s
    – Pillow/s
    – Bed sheet/s
    – Flat sheet
    – Shoe box
    – Unlimited brewed coffee
    – Free breakfast
    – Airsoft coupon: 150 rounds rifle; or Archery
    – Access to camper’s chill area, board games, card games, darts, books, campsite, restaurant and bar, hot and cold shower, view deck
    – Free parking

The Backpackers Package with an overnight stay that costs Php750 per head · Check in – 2:00 PM | Check out -12:00 NN

  • Inclusions:
    – Bed bunk, blanket, pillow, curtain divider
    – Personal lighting – Personal locker
    – Unlimited brewed coffee
    – Free breakfast
    – Airsoft coupon: 150 rounds rifle; or Archery – Access to camper’s area, board games, card games, darts, books, campsite, restaurant and bar, hot and cold shower, view deck
    – Free parking

NOTE: They have 3 types of rooms available for backpackers with capacities of 4 pax, 6 pax and 10 pax. The room may be shared with others if a group is unable to fill the maximum capacity of the room.

How to Get to Valleypoint:
If you’re driving, you can search Valleypoint Campsite on Google Maps or Waze.
Campers coming from MANILA by BUS:
  1. Tell the driver that your drop off point would be at GREEN VALLEY, PETRON STATION. No need to go to the bus terminal station.
  2. Once you reach GREEN VALLEY PETRON, take a TAXI and tell the cab driver SANTO TOMAS CHECKPOINT.
  3. Once you reach the SANTO TOMAS CHECKPOINT, tell them you have a booking at VALLEYPOINT. VALLEYPOINT is 10 to 15 meters after the CHECKPOINT.
Campers coming from BAGUIO CITY (Town)
  • by TAXI – tell the driver GREEN VALLEY, SANTO TOMAS. Fare is around 120 – 150 Php.
  • by JEEP – take any jeep from BAYANIHAN (Green Valley, Dontogan, Santo Tomas.)
  • by CAR – search VALLEYPOINT CAMPSITE on Google Maps or Waze
***Note: Upon arrival at the Santo Tomas Checkpoint, tell the guards that you’re heading to Valleypoint Campsite and they will let you through.

OTHER AMENITIES:

A Camper’s Area

This is located on the level directly above the restaurant. It is considered as the visitors’/camper’s chill areas, a common space where everyone can socialize, read a book or play games. There are available board games, card games, and books. Some guests would come here primarily for photo ops, then go (which isn’t surprising because of the large bean bags in the area). However, no food is allowed here.

In-house Restaurant

While the choices of food are quite limited, the servings are generous (maybe good for 2-3 persons). The brewed coffee though is unlimited. AND the view is AMAZING!

They also have their own Art Gallery, by the way.

Take it easy. Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust.

Thailand: Prasat Hin Phimai

If there is one thing you will never run out seeing anywhere across Thailand, that is finding incredible temples of various kinds.

My recent trip to the Land of Smiles gave me an opportunity to visit one of its northeastern provinces, Nakhon Ratchasima. Upon googling, I have learned that place is home to Thailand’s largest Khmer temples – the Phimai Historical Park or Prasat Hin Phimai.

With over 1,000 meters length and an almost 600 meters width, this rectangular complex houses some of the finest examples of Khmer architecture in the country.

My colleague from Thailand who accompanied me in this quick visit said that the reason why these temples are unique is that they were constructed as a Buddhist temple, even if the Khmer people who built it were Hindu.

Basing it on how it looks like, Phimai’s temple style resembles that of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and maybe bit of Prambanan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

As a travel enthusiast who has a soft spot for ruins, I can not help but be amazed while I walked around its complex. You can feel how much history is embedded among the seemingly fragile walls. I found myself musing and wanting to stay longer.

It was a short visit at this side of Thailand but definitely something I will always remember. True enough, there is beauty in everything… Something ruined included.

Don’t be wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy.

Cordova: Charming & Captivating (Cebu, PH)

The province of Cebu has a seemingly endless list of delightful attractions, both natural and man-made. Almost every town or city has something to offer to anyone who is visiting the island. One particular place that shouldn’t be neglected is the small, coastal municipality of Cordova. This town is located in the island of Mactan, the home of Cebu’s international airport, making it a very accessible place to reach.

So which places or what activities can one do when in Cordova, Cebu?

GO ISLAND-HOPPING.

Being a sea-side town, Cordova boasts off small islands with picture-perfect views and teeming marine life. When I visited Cebu in 2009, I got the chance to do island-hopping and was able to visit Hilutungan Island, a marine sanctuary that is one of the seven satellite islets that forms the Olango group of islands off the coast of Mactan; and the smaller Sulpa Island, a great place for beginners to dive and snorkel. These islands are low-lying coral islands with rich marine life and white sandy beaches.

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Hilutungan in particular, has a sand bar and a resort that is ideal for a weekend or overnight staycation. Although they are considered as protected areas, the local government allows snorkelers, divers and beach-lovers to experience the beauty of these islands. Besides Hilutungan, the nearby islands of Caohagan Island, Cabulan Island, Nalusuan Island, Olango Island, and Talima are also marine sanctuaries open to visitors despite some of them being private.

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There are sea patrollers (civilian volunteers) around the area who watches Philippine coastal waters from the shore. They are said to have trainings on conservation, protection, management and development of fisheries and aquatic resources; they also restrain destructive fishing practices and illegal fishing in the area.

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How to Reach the Olango Group of Islands:

From Manila, take a plane bound for Cebu. Upon arrival at Mactan International Airport, take a cab to either of the following options: You can rent an outrigger at the Hilton Pier in Mactan, or take the regular ferry at Angasil pier to Olango Island. From Sta. Rosa pier in Olongo, there are outrigger boats that ferry passengers to and from Hilutungan. There are also organized transfers when you’re booked at dive resorts. From there, one can go and see other nearby islands like Olango and Sulfa Islands. Another option is to go to Maribago area where one can take a traditional outrigger boat (called ‘pumpboat’ or bangka) that takes around 35 to 45 minutes to get there.

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After an entire day of island-hopping, make your way to the tip Lantaw Restaurant and 10,000 Roses Cafe where you can: (1) wait for the sunset, (2) have a sumptuous seafood dinner at Lantaw; and (3) marvel at the led roses at 10, 000 Roses cafe once darkness sets in.

10000 Roses Café & More has recently become a tourist attraction at this side of Cebu. The artificial, LED-powered roses are a sight to behold at nighttime or even during sundown. The café starts operation as early as 10:30AM and closes at 10:00 PM. You’d probably have the place to yourself early during daytime but you can’t deny the fact that it becomes more magical as the day comes to an end. By the way, an entrance fee of P20 per person is collected.

So there you go, a Cordova, Cebu experience that is filled with captivating moments from broad daylight til nighttime.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy.

Buguias: Northern Philippines’ Vegetable Basket and More

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Most often over-shadowed by other Benguet towns, Buguias primarily serves as stop-over or just that regular town being passed by buses carrying visitors to Bontoc, and Sagada. Recently, its neighbor Atok is slowly gaining the limelight for its flower farm, and other growing number of attractions.

Truth of the matter, one would rarely find travel blogs or write-ups about this quaint town in the Cordillera. But if you truly have an eye for beauty, you would have probably noticed those beautifully planted vegetables along the Halsema Highway when you passed by this town. Besides, Buguias would not be considered the Vegetable Capital of Northern Philippines if not for these seemingly endless vegetable plantation. (By the way, around 70% of vegetable supplies – whether its potatoes, carrots, cabbages and the like, are grown in this municipality and is distributed across Luzon and some other parts of the country).

The vista of these vegetable grounds, plus the stunning serrate of the mountains being kissed by clouds, whenever I pass by this town has since then ignited my curiosity. There should be more to this town besides its vegetables. And so I tried to google information about Buguias, and to my dismay, very little information can be obtained. So the next thing I did was to seek the advise of some friends who are from Buguias or who have visited Buguias. Thankfully, Doc Cecille and Lenny (both of whom were my students before) gave some really interesting recommendations that led me to contact Buguias Tourism officer, Sir Payangdo.

So, with only a weekend to spare for a quick getaway outside Baguio, two of my very good friends (Claro and Robi), joined me in this Buguias trip. After communicating with Sir Payangdo, and a little more patience searching for information over the internet, we went to Buguias to explore a mountain and have an up-close encounter with their vegetable terraces.

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We rode a van bound for Buguias at a petrol station located in Km.5 La Trinidad proper. The earliest trip is at 4 am, and the time travel is around 3 hours with 1 stop-over at Sayangan, Atok. Since we were spending a night in Buguias, we stayed at Alpine G Lodge (which by the way, is the only one we could find when searching for an accommodation in Buguias). It is really a nice lodge with a café/ restaurant that serves good food with generous servings. After settling our things, Sir Payangdo said that the FX-like transportation that will take us to the jump-off site of Mount Nato-o is waiting for us outside our lodge.

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Climbing Mount Nato-o.

Based on what I have googled, Mount Nato-o is a potential natural attraction found in Sebang, a barangay that borders the provinces of Benguet and Ifugao. This is a small mountain located within the vegetable valley as described by the Benguet Province official website.

The travel to Mount Nato-o from Abatan took almost an hour. We were actually lost for a moment because our driver wasn’t sure as to where the exact jump-off is located. After asking some directions from the friendly locals, we managed to find what we were looking for. We were met by a local official that was contacted by Sir Payangdo. We were then given a local guide, who happens to be one of the barangay kagawad too, and off we went to climb Mount Nato-o without much expectations.

Along the trail, we were joined by 4 local kids. Our guide told us that it has been a while since the last time visitors came to Mount Nato-o (the last being students from a university in in Baguio who came not to really trek but to collect some plant samples for research purposes). You see, this mountain, just like most Cordillera mountains, are known for unusual and interesting flora.

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The trail to Mount Nato-o starts off with passing by vegetable terraces that eventually leads to a steep, grassy one. This to me was the challenging part as the trail was almost covered by tall grasses that could cut your skin. We had to make a few stops since the assault was quite tiring. The last leg of the climb is through a mossy forest reminiscent of Mount Pulag’s. Well, you could say that this is my personal favorite. We also passed by an area where a supposed tower will be put up, and a grotto site where a mass was once held. Our climb ended with an “apparent peak” surrounded by pine trees sans a view. I wasn’t really convinced that, that was the peak. Maybe, the mountain isn’t really that explored just yet. (And maybe, that is the reason why they haven’t officially opened this mountain to trekkers and visitors). The descent was pretty much faster and easier as to when we scaled it. In no time, we were already inside our ride going back to our lodge).

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Just when we thought our mountain escapade is all-good when our driver told us to pay more than double for our ride. The tourism officer said we were only to pay Php1000.00 but when we got back to our place, he was asking us to pay Php2, 500.00. He was a bit scary and aggressive. It really was disappointing. We ended up haggling and paid Php2000.00. I instantly messaged Sir Payangdo, the tourism officer, about the incident and told him that things like those would turn away potential visitors. I hope it won’t happen to other people visiting Buguias because it is such a turn off.

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“View”tiful Vegetable Terraces.

Of course the highlight of our Buguias trip is getting up-close and personal with endless vegetable fields. Almost every barangay we passed by have these man-made wonders. True enough, these terraces are Buguias ultimate gem. During our visit, carrots and cabbage were the main vegetables planted and being harvested. Walking along the fields is such a delightful experience – the air was unsullied and fresh, and the Buguias weather is cool enough to make one feel relaxed.

There are other potential attractions in this town. They are not yet fully opened to visitors and hopefully, I would be able to come back and visit again. Some of those that were mentioned by a local I have talked to are: several Burial Caves (with Apo Anno Cave as the most significant), a hotspring in the poblacion, other mountains like Mount Kitongan and Mount Apanderang; a waterfalls called Sabeng Anito; Tabeyo lake, and more vegetable terraces.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

 

 

 

Germany: Potsdam Post

Potsdam – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the capital of Brandenburg, is a must visit place when you are in Berlin for its close proximity to the German capital. Located along the banks of the Havel River, this seemingly quaint city will capture your heart for its authenticity, picturesque landmarks, and vibrant history. Truly a gem worthy of a visit.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be”juan”derlust. Take it easy