Snapshots: Boatman, Hoi An, Vietnam

One of the many pictures I took the first afternoon we were in Hoi An.

Snapshots: A Vendor and Her Boat of Goods, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

One of my favorite photos from Vietnam. The operators of the junk boats you can ride to cruise along Ha Long Bay will discourage you to buy from vendors like this and convince you to buy from them instead, which is kind of sad - everyone's entitled to make an honest living.

Snapshots: Sunset in Batangas, Philippines

I've always loved the orange tint that the sunset brings to a place, especially if that place is by the beach. Here's the view of the sunset from our cottage in Dive N Trek in Batangas. You can find another one here.

This week's daily travel photos will be all about life in the water - a bit of an encore of Staying Afloat because I really love these pictures, with a few new ones.

Snapshots: Breakfast in Tagaytay

It was the first weekend of 2012. I was with a bunch of work friends and we had celebrated a birthday Friday night, and were at the after party early Saturday morning. It was two, maybe three a.m., and wasn't it in an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" when they said nothing good ever comes from making any decisions after 2AM?

But you know what? It wasn't so bad, spontaneously deciding to drive to Tagaytay to have breakfast after a night of partying. You just need friends who are willing to go with you, and at least one of them who knows how to drive - this time around, it was Dan.

By the time we had gotten there we were just hoping there was a place open other than 7-11 or Burger Machine - and thankfully, there was! We had goto and arroz caldo and proceeded to drive back to Manila soon after, driving with the windows down and the music up.

We got back fairly early on Saturday morning, and I proceeded to sleep through the rest of the weekend, rendering me pretty useless on the first weekend of the year. But hey, that's at least one crazy thing to tick off my list of crazy things to do. On to the next one then!

Snapshots: A Quiet Spot in Mongkok, Hong Kong

In busy, bustling Hong Kong, there aren't a lot of places that offer peace and quiet. I took a walk along the streets of Mongkok and found this place - probably the only place I visited in Hong Kong that was empty and quiet. It was a nice break from the sensory overload that was the rest of the city. I love finding places like this, random places that offer a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city, like the hidden courtyard we chanced upon during a visit in Binondo in the Philippines. It's nice to know there are still places of peace and quiet in the busiest of cities.

Snapshots: Poinsettia, Macau

Red poinsettia leaves remind me of two things: Nanay, my grandmother, and Christmas.

Snapshots: Sunset Approaching in Angkor

There's nothing like walking through the ancient halls of Angkor Wat as the sun prepares to set for the day.

Snapshots: Hue Traffic, Vietnam

We were having dinner at a local joint on our first night in Hue (I remember having some pretty good ravioli), and this was the view from the balcony on the second floor.

The Sights of Binondo, Philippines

Last Christmas, I received one of the best presents a traveler can get from my friend Mark Go: a custom-made culinary and cultural tour of a place I had never explored before, but he knew quite well: Binondo. I meant to write about this for Christmas last year, but the holidays were not conducive for being productive and were very much so for lazing around, playing Rock Band with my brother, and watching KPop videos on YouTube, so there you are. Thankfully the Chinese New Year has given me another opportune time to share this story. Many, many thanks to Mark for such a sweet and thoughtful gift - he even went around Binondo by himself days before he took us with him so he could do an ocular of the place, a true testament to his being a marketing man! And many thanks to Didith who gamely tagged along - I hope you had as much fun as I did!

This post is one of two parts - I'll do the cultural part of the trip first, and the culinary part on the next one.

The Christmas gift was meant to be a surprise, so Mark merely asked Didith and I to block off a Sunday in December so we could receive our present, which he had alluded to as being a private Amazing Race of sorts. I had a few guesses as to where he was going to take us, but it became pretty clear by the time we approached the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch:

Here's Mark working out the directions to Binondo in the cab on the way there - he was even able to convince the cab driver not to tell Didith and I where we were headed!

To get around Binondo, our chosen mode of transportation was a kalesa, which was loads of fun in itself.

Our first stop was the Binondo Church, a lovely old church at the heart of Binondo, which also provided us momentary shelter from the downpour outside (it was an unusually rainy December day).

The plaza in front of Binondo Church should've been full of pedestrians, but as it was raining pretty hard, it was virtually empty - probably a rare occurrence on what should've been a bustling Sunday afternoon.

The statue of Don Roman Ongpin - businessman, philanthropist, and supporter of the Philippine Revolution. The street where his statue stands is named after him.

Probably my favorite spot of the entire tour - a hidden courtyard in a nondescript residential building where they sold amazing fresh lumpia.

We also visited a somewhat hidden temple in another residential building - you probably wouldn't know it was there just by looking at the place from the outside. We went inside and paid our respects by burning some incense.

We also stopped by a souvenirs and trinkets store where we bought some lucky coins to bring us a little fortune in 2012.

For our last stop, we headed out to Intramuros to visit the Bahay Tsinoy Museum.

The last part of our Binondo adventure will be coming soon, wait for it!

Snapshots: Lucky Coins, Binondo

Since it's Chinese New Year, I thought I'd post a few pictures from a recent visit to Binondo. This is just a preview - more pictures and stories in a little bit!

Snapshots: A Filipino Breakfast, San Juan, Laiya, Batangas

There's no better way to start a lazy Sunday than with an amazing Filipino breakfast - adobo flakes, a sunny side up egg, and rice with a dash of vinegar. Kulang na lang tsokolate!

Snapshots: Preparing to Head for Anawangin Cove by Boat, Zambales, Philippines

It's finally the long weekend! If you've yet to make travel plans, it's not too late to stuff a backpack with a few clothes, hop on a bus (or take your own car, if taking public transportation is a conyo problem you just don't want to deal with) and as the Nat Geo Adventure tagline goes, get lost!

Snapshots: Filipino Tempura, Rizal Blvd, Dumaguete, Philippines

In the afternoons, the seaside Rizal Boulevard in Dumaguete transforms into a street eatery of sorts, with vendors setting up shop to sell balut and Filipino-style tempura. Affordable and delicious food, a relaxed vibe, good times.

Snapshots: Business Partners, Hoi An Market, Vietnam

I'm actually not sure if these ladies are business partners or competitors. Either way, this is one of my favorite pictures ever from all of my trips so far. We were hanging around in the Hoi An market and the two of them came upon my vision, and with the afternoon sun hitting the scene just right, I was fortunate enough to have been able to take this shot.

A few days ago I chanced upon a feature on the living root bridges in North East India and in the process discovered my new travel and photography inspiration - Timothy Allen. His photos are nothing short of breathtaking. He even has a feature on the Pa-aling Divers of the Philippines and he has some amazing underwater photos documenting their line of work. I'm in total awe, and in total envy, of his work. My drive to take amazing pictures (at least as amazing as my point-and-shoot and my untrained, uneducated wannabe photographer self can accomplish) in the past year hasn't been as great as before, but I hope to change all that when I go on my travels this year. This picture of a fisherman crossing the Mekong River in Laos especially got me excited for our Laos trip in May. For now though, taking inspiration from Timothy Allen's blog will have to do.

More pictures and stories from Hoi An here.

Snapshots: Moments at the Airport, NAIA 3, Manila, Philippines

I love airports - they hold the promise of an adventure, of a new place to discover and of new friends to meet, but they can also promise the warm, fuzzy familiarity of home. It just depends which way you're going.

Snapshots: In Flight, Somewhere between Manila and Kota Kinabalu

I don't think I'll survive a flight without my iPod.

Snapshots: La Union, Philippines

Five days to the first long weekend of the year! Have you made any plans yet? Why don't you give surfing a try in La Union? It's only a few hours away from Manila, perfect for a long weekend roadtrip with friends.

I'm writing up a guide to this year's long weekends, with trip suggestions and loads of pictures, wait for it in the coming days!

Snapshots: Sinulog Festival, Cebu

Today marks this year's Sinulog Festival Grand Parade, so I thought I'd post a few pictures from when I attended Sinulog a few years back.

Snapshots: Banteay Samre, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The road that led to nowhere at the main entrance of Banteay Samre - not the most popular temple in the Angkor Complex, but lovely just the same.

You can read more about Banteay Samre and the other lesser-known temples we visited here.

Snapshots: Old Houses in San Juan, Batangas

There's a lovely cafe in the ground floor of one of the old buildings in San Juan called Cafeno, and it's a great place to stop by after a day at the beach in Laiya, before heading back home. Try their kapeng barako ice cream! Read more about Cafeno here.

Snapshots: Kokeshi Dolls, Malaysia

A favorite pasalubong or souvenir that I like to give to my female friends and family, in different forms - from actual kokeshi dolls, kokeshi doll pens, to even umbrellas that look like kokeshi dolls!

Snapshots: Balete Tree, Siquijor

This is supposedly one of, if not the oldest tree in Siquijor.

Snapshots: Friends Off To The Beach, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Carmeli, Edell and Dale in Tungku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Kota Kinabalu, from our trip way back in 2008.

Snapshots: Chinese Food Place, Macau

I've been to Macau twice, and the second time I was there (which was also the trip of that epic bungee jump I will forever rave about, it seems), I thought I'd take pictures of the different sites of Macau in black and white. So there's plenty more where this picture came from - which is from inside the obscure little Chinese place near our hotel where we had a simple breakfast on our first morning in Macau.

Snapshots: Setting Up Camp, Anawangin Cove, Zambales

I love how pretty the lighting on this picture is - brought about by sun rays seeping through the numerous trees that sheltered us and our little tent from the heat.

Snapshots: Dive N Trek, Batangas

Fish photos! I'm so glad I invested on an underwater camera.

Snapshots: Autumn Leaves, Seoul, South Korea

I was fortunate enough to have visited Seoul at around the time when the seasons were about to change, and autumn was slowly transitioning into winter. Very early in the morning on the very first day of our stay in Seoul (the night before which, we were partying it up and experiencing reverse hangovers and the joys of Korean street food in Hongdae), while Rissee was in the shower, Jon summoned me over to the biggest window of his flat, because little flecks of snow were falling from the sky and down to the street below us. It was a lovely little moment from our short but amazingly fun trip, looking out the window from Jon's place and being in awe of the snow, tropical girl that I am. On the same day, into the afternoon as we were taking a self-planned walking tour around the city (thanks to Jon's Lonely Planet guide of Seoul), we chanced upon the tree in the picture, with its beautifully colored autumn leaves and its concrete, urban backdrop of tall buildings.

Snapshots: Siem Reap, Cambodia

A failed attempt at pulling a Lara Croft pose in Ta Prohm.
(With my tiny pink backpack in tow, I probably looked more like Dora The Explorer, to be honest).

Snapshots: Casa Padma, Bali, Indonesia

The place we called home in Bali. After days of staying in tiny, tiny hostels in Singapore and Malaysia, Casa Padma was a welcome change as we neared the end of our 10-day trip across three countries, also known as the Asian Tour of our imaginary KPop girl group - imaginary because we are neither Korean nor entertainers/performers. We just thought it'd be fun to have a theme during the trip, a sort of running joke, spontaneous dance performances, fancy photo shoots, and fake paparazzi photos included (which will never see the light of day on this blog, I promise you, to spare you the facepalming, and to spare us "members" of the fake girl group the embarrassment).

Casa Padma Suites, Legian, Bali
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