Snow in Seoul: A Korean Winter





It's Christmas Eve! I haven't posted in a while but I have been meaning to write about my recent solo Seoul trip, which was loads of fun. I'm still trying to get my blogging groove back so this will mostly be photos.

It was already pretty cold during my trip to Seoul and winter was obviously well on its way to freezing up the city. On my last day, while doing some last minute shopping in Myeongdong (and while listening to the "Miracles in December" album - "My Turn To Cry" is by far my favorite track!), it started to snow!

I also have a few photos of a snowed in Samcheongdong from the day prior. If you're dreaming of a White Christmas, I hope these photos help!

Happy Holidays!


Where to Stay in Yangon, Myanmar: Garden Home Bed & Breakfast





Garden Home Bed and Breakfast - book now at special rates via Agoda.com
10, Bogyoke Museum Lane, Bahan Township, Northern Yangon,
Yangon, Myanmar
http://gardenhomebnb.asia/

In a nutshell:
Ideal location, friendly and accommodating staff, very clean rooms & amenities

Rating: 4/5 


Silantro, Cilantro + Concepcion, Iloilo Typhoon Yolanda Relief Efforts





Two restaurants with the same name, one serving Filipino-Mexican fusion food, the other Vietnamese delicacies. Check out Silantro Fil-Mex Cantina in Kapitolyo, Pasig, and Cilantro in Iloilo!
Also, certain towns in Iloilo have been badly damaged


La Union Soul Surf 2013 feat. RAC, Classixx and Crazy/Beautiful Friends






Had an epic weekend with friends in La Union for Soul Surf 2013! I really wanted to go because of Classixx and RAC, and they were awesome (although I'm still really bummed Classixx didn't play "I'll Get You", like what's up with that?!), but really, the best part of the trip was spending a few days with great friends I’ve missed. Hilarious and random conversations on the road for 5+ hours each way, and of course, all the partying! Was it 7 hours straight? Everyone just kept at it for that long because you know, yolo. Haha.

Anyway, I’m cutting this post short because it’s late, I’m still not over the weekend that was, and I’m still trying to bring my blogging chops back from a month of not posting anything. I’ll be trying to churn out more posts over the long weekend, get my blogging groove back. For now I leave you with pictures.

Were you in La Union over the weekend? How was your experience? Hope you had a blast!

Thanks to Captain Morgan Philippines and Smirnoff Philippines for a great party!
 

Wise Words To Live By At The Circle Hostel La Union, Philippines





A few months back, I spent a great weekend at The Circle Hostel La Union and loved its cool, creative, laidback vibe. It's a great place to visit if you want to quickly escape from the city and to meet fellow travelers and new friends.

At The Circle Hostel, guests are free to paint and write on almost every surface available within the hostel. I took photos of the ones I liked, and you'll find them below (one of them I even wrote myself! Guess which one it is).

Do you ever feel compelled to leave a piece of yourself behind in the places you travel to? 




Dirty White Jazz: RAC and Classixx! (A La Union Soul Surf Playlist)





I drive a white Honda Jazz that unfortunately I don't get to take to the car wash as often as I should. I do, however, love taking it on relaxed long drives, often on my own, with a lot of good music to keep me company - hence the title of this series of posts. I love music of all kinds, and love putting them together in playlists that help me build memories. Often I associate a song or a series of songs to a certain trip or a specific moment from that trip, kind of like a soundtrack to a movie. In these posts I will be sharing the music that I listen to during my travels, from all-time faves to newfound loves and one hit wonder flings. In some of these posts you'll find a download link to the entire mixtape for your own listening pleasure. I would also love to hear your music recommendations - I'm always on the hunt for new songs to listen to when I travel!  

I've consistently loaded my previous playlists with songs from RAC and Classixx, and this time around, because they're headlining La Union Soul Surf in October, I'm dedicating an entire playlist just for their music! It was difficult keeping this one to twenty some tracks because they have so many amazing songs, so I highly recommend you check out their SoundCloud pages (here for RAC and here for Classixx), because there's plenty more where this playlist came from. Enjoy!


Spending Saturday Night in Makati, Philippines: El Chupacabra, Tonkatsuya, The Exit, The Curator, Blind Pig





I live in Ortigas and work in The Fort, so coming to Makati isn't a very common occurence. I hadn't spent a Saturday night in Makati in ages, but a few weekends back and just this weekend, my friends and I decided to change things up a bit and check out a few places that you couldn't find anywhere else but in Makati. From street tacos to bespoke cocktails to some awesome katsu, check out these only-in-Makati joints!


A Stroll Along Samcheongdong, Seoul, South Korea






I think the best way to discover a city's hidden charm and best-kept secrets is to explore it on foot, at a leisurely pace, without a particular destination in mind. Walk through a city's hustle and bustle into perhaps its only quiet spot, or stroll along its empty streets on a lazy Sunday morning and suddenly find yourself in a quaint hole-in-the-wall, a perfect setting for a weekend brunch. Don't forget to arm yourself with a camera - you never know what you might find!

I did a lot of walking the two times I visited Seoul with friends, and one of my favorite places to explore on foot was Samcheongdong. The tree-lined streets, the pretty storefronts, and the fusion of modern and traditional details in the architecture were lovely to behold. It was nice to be surrounded with so much creativity, and to discover the quirky details that lurked in every corner. 

I took a lot of photos in Samcheongdong and these are my favorites. Hope you like them! On your next trip, set aside an afternoon or a morning to walk around the city you are visiting. Skip the tourist spots for a bit and live like a local. Don't forget to wear comfortable shoes!

4 Korean-Inspired Cafes in Manila and Ortigas, Philippines






My idea of the perfect lazy day is to spend it in a cute cafe. The coffee and the food don't have to be particularly spectacular - for a lazy day at a cafe, I find the ambiance to be of utmost importance instead: somewhere relaxing, with pretty interiors and good music (a cute barista wouldn't hurt either).

In spite of our hectic Seoul-all-you-can itinerary the last time we went to South Korea, we managed to find time to visit Jukjeon Cafe Street and Hongdae and explore a few quaint cafes, which I loved. I love Korean cafes. They're like Kpop idols - cute, sometimes quirky, and usually pretty. If it weren't impractical I would be happy to fly to Seoul for a long weekend and do nothing else but go cafe-hopping.

Seems I'm not the only one who's grown fond of Korean cafes, because currently there are four cafes in Manila that all have the cool Korean cafe vibe. Two are conveniently near my place which is perfect, and the other two are a bit of a drive but definitely worth it! Check them out under the cut, and maybe with some background music care of f(x) and EXO's D.O.? Enjoy!

Current favorite Kpop song. Squishy Do Kyungsoo FTW!


Breakfast at The Kitchen Table, W Hotel Bangkok





I love a good hotel breakfast - there's no other way to start the day right (except maybe a kayak trip to a nearby empty island, but then the hotel breakfast would definitely come after that). I love its seemingly limitless gastronomic possibilities, and always hope that it's an optimistic parallel to the day it headlines.

I had a great time staying at The W Bangkok, and one of the main reasons for my rather enjoyable stay was the breakfast at The Kitchen Table. Great food with a wide variety of options, the stylish presentation of the food and the relaxed yet posh ambience - I looked forward to waking up early every morning knowing I was going to start my day with a hearty meal. 

Explore a bit more of The Kitchen Table at The W Hotel Bangkok under the cut!

A Trip Back in Time Inside Simsimheon House, Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul





One of the things I love about Seoul, South Korea (besides the fun dances and pretty boys of Kpop, naturally), is how it's managed to become a very cosmopolitan city without giving up its cultural and historical treasures to make way for modern ones. Seoulites have managed to find a way to keep a harmonious balance between traditional and modern Korea, and this is how we came to find ourselves exploring a beautiful, traditional house in the heart of Seoul on our trip last year.

We were only planning to marvel at the beautiful traditional houses in Bukchon from the outside because we knew most of the houses were privately owned and not open to the public, but luckily my friends chanced upon Simsimheon, a house you could visit in a guided tour for a fee (was it 10,000 KRW per person? I forget).

But the highlight of the tour for me was the plum tea they served us - best tea I've ever had, seriously! It also features in our Kpop-inspired Seoul travel video - have a look at the photos (and the travel video!) below!


Checking in at The W Bangkok





I recently made a post about trading in my backpacking ways when I go on business trips, which would usually mean a stay in at least a decent hotel. But a few weeks back, I had to go to Thailand for a working session and stayed in my favorite hotel yet - The W Bangkok. I had never stayed in a W Hotel prior to that trip, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a W Hotel is apparently no ordinary hotel - in particular, The W Bangkok is edgy, youthful, and just...really, really cool.


Contests!




Check out some travel-related contests below and get a chance to win a copy of the new book "All's Fair in Blog and War", Easytrip Tags and an iPad mini!

Get a chance to win a copy of the book "All's Fair in Blog and War" by checking out the contest page on The Girl Who Read and Other Stories here! Contest ends on August 3, 2013. 



Contest ends July 31, 2013.  Like the NLEX and SCTEX Facebook Page for more details!

Terms and conditions apply.

Finding The Exit, the New "Secret" Speakeasy in Makati, Philippines





This week at the office, a co-worker tipped us off about The Exit, a month-old, speakeasy-style joint right in the heart of Makati. In existence within its winding veins and traffic-clogged arteries. Somewhere in there.

Part of the fun is finding it on your own, as I did one night when I realized I had time to kill after work. I love my new job.

So let's not talk about where The Exit is exactly. But across Greenbelt 1, around the area of the Rolex Building would be a good place to start, if you're keen on finding it. The pictures below might help too.

If you ever find it, sit by the bar. The staff are friendly, will introduce themselves and will ask for your name. Order the De Rigeur - bourbon, grapefruit, honey. Or better yet, get a classic Black Label with a dash of sparkling water or soda (now you know where my loyalties lie).

You know what? It's bound to turn up in Foursquare one of these days. But wouldn't you want to find it for yourself before everyone else does?


P.S. Is my title for this redundant? Aren't all speakeasies secret by default?

Myanmar + Mausi + Travel Video + Last Set of Bagan Photos!





I'm officially out of Myanmar photos to post! These are the last of the lot, and for real this time. I saved them for posting with our Myanmar travel video, which Mabs has dutifully edited, and now it's finally here!

I absolutely love my GoPro Hero2 - Mabs and I each bought one at half-off from Black Friday last year and I really love how the footage turned out, especially the ones from when I would just leave the camera in a corner or on the ground to record random stuff. Mix that up with footage from Mabs' badass Canon EOS camera and play them with Mausi's awesome summer track "sol." in the background and voila, an epic travel video to forever remind us of our awesome trip to Burma.

Even more awesome is how Mausi tweeted me back when I sent them the link to the video, AND they retweeted the link to their followers, and they followed me back! My love for them just increased by about a thousandfold.

Check out the video below, and my last photos of Bagan under the cut!


My fangirl heart is happy! Mausi is awesome! :)

Life in (Flip Flops) Heels: Traveling for Work





Every now and then I would have to trade in my flip flops and my backpack to travel for work, and the experience is quite different from how I would normally travel in my own time (and out of my own pocket): the room accommodations are suddenly too big for one person (especially after having stayed with two friends in a tin can of a hostel in Hong Kong once upon a time. Good times!), and there's just too much concrete and buildings in my surroundings (especially compared to the vast, dusty plains and ancient temples of Bagan). I think there's plenty to like about work trips - for one, they're a great way to meet new people and to learn about how your counterparts in other markets work. There's also something magical about being able to do your work outside of your office - it's nice to be working somewhere else for once instead of on your desk, and sometimes the change in scenery is enough to get some good ideas flowing, as if being in a new place also gives you a new perspective of the work you've been doing.

The following are just a few photos I've taken from the work trips I've taken in my old job, mostly in Singapore and one time in Malaysia. They're a lot different from the photos I usually post here. Have a look!

Where to Eat in San Juan, La Union, Philippines





Planning a surf trip to San Juan, La Union? Getting stoked requires a lot of energy, and thankfully there are plenty of food places to check out in and around San Juan. The awesome guys at The Circle Hostel La Union invited a group of travel bloggers including myself to stay in their eco-friendly accommodations for a weekend and kindly took us to three great places to eat around the area. Check out Urbiztondo Grill House, Kahuna Resort, and Thunderbird Resort below!


Life in Flip Flops: Saying Goodbye to Summer in El Nido, Philippines (Part 2)








A beach holiday wouldn't be a beach holiday without lots of photos of the water. I'm not one to just hang out by the shore all day when I'm at the beach - I love the water, love to swim freely and float around looking up into the sky thinking about nothing. So our holiday at Lagen Island Resort was perfect - we were surrounded by pristine waters to swim in, and there was a slew of other water activities to try. We swam with massive carnivorous fish in Miniloc Island, explored beautiful lagoons,  and took a kayak to an empty,  deserted beach. We wanted to try the Hobie Cat at Dibuluan Beach Club but the conditions weren't ideal for sailing, unfortunately.  Maybe next time.

In any case, it's always a good holiday in my book if you spent at least half of it in the water, which we definitely did when we were in El Nido!

Life in Flip Flops: Saying Goodbye to Summer in El Nido, Philippines (Part 1)





My friends and I travel more often than we take a holiday - usually our trips have itineraries ranging from chock-full to intensely hectic,  with only a few breaks to chill and relax in between. They're refreshing and provide a great escape from our daily routines, but are hardly relaxing physically.

So our holiday in Lagen Island Resort in El Nido, Palawan couldn't have come at a better time - it was going to be Mabelle's birthday celebration,  my job was on the verge of going crazy so I needed a relaxing long weekend before all hell broke loose, and Rissee had just come from her own stressful moments. The best part? We got a crazy awesome deal from the Travel Expo last February - around PhP 27,000 all in for an entire 3-day package. And given the facilities,  the service, the food, the activities, and just the whole magic of the weekend, it was absolutely worth it.

I have so many photos from our holiday that this is only photo set 1. There's plenty more where this came from, which I'll publish in the next posts!


A Weekend Well Spent at The Circle Hostel La Union





Summer was ending, it was the first weekend of June and I was starting to get busy with my new job when I found myself spending a weekend with strangers-turned-friends at The Circle Hostel in La Union for a much needed break from the city. I had been meaning to check out their first hostel in Zambales but hadn't found the time to do so, so I was more than thrilled to be part of the blogger event they organized for their new branch in La Union.

It was a swell weekend to say the least (pun intended, though there were actually no waves and we weren't able to surf when we were there). My corporate sellout self badly needed the break - the fresh air, the afternoon spent hanging out in the common area talking about random things while listening to Jason Mraz and eating green mangoes freshly plucked from a nearby tree, the random drinking games, the night spent by the beach lying down on the sand looking out for shooting stars, and the chance at meeting new and interesting people. I had been to La Union more than a couple of times prior, but it felt like a new place all over again mostly because of the people I got to hang out with that weekend. The coolest thing was realizing how small Manila is - at The Circle Hostel I spent time with people I had either met before (I was even in a meeting with one of the guys once! Hello Jake! How random is that?) or had random common friends with.  

There's just something about The Circle Hostel that makes it conducive to making new friends. I'm not usually the chatty-chatty type (really, I'm not!) with strangers but during our weekend  in La Union, apart from the bloggers I went with, we also met the guys from GoodLifeCrewPH, and all it took was a few questions about their GoPro gadgets (and they sure had a lot of them gadgets!) and an offer of green mango slices. Two of them, after leaving their jobs in Singapore, are setting out on a journey across the Philippines and documenting their trip with their GoPro cameras. How cool is that? Theirs was just one of the many inspiring stories I heard that weekend about stepping out of ordinary routines and stepping into extraordinary, exciting lives.   

If you're looking for a quick weekend getaway and can't find any friends to take with you, book a bed in The Circle Hostel Zambales or La Union - you would've set out on your own but you'll definitely come back with at least a few friends!


Myanmar Travel Tips





Traveling to Myanmar is a great adventure you shouldn't miss, and one you should take soon, before it gets crowded with tourists. Read on for a few tips we gained from our recent trip to Yangon and Bagan. I hope these are helpful when you go on your own Burmese adventure!


Life in Flip Flops: Girly, Pretty Things at Heima and Vanilla Cupcake Bakery





When I'm not traveling I long for other sources of inspiration, and in the past few days, rather serendipitously, I chanced upon two places in the city that have given me just that. I love very feminine lifestyle and design blogs like A Field Journal and A Beautiful Mess (thanks for the tip on the latter Eds!), and these places are like those blogs coming to life! I'll write more about them soon, but for now I'm spamming you with photos. Enjoy!

Dirty White Jazz: Summer is a State of Mind






I drive a white Honda Jazz that unfortunately I don't get to take to the car wash as often as I should. I do, however, love taking it on relaxed long drives, often on my own, with a lot of good music to keep me company - hence the title of this series of posts. I love music of all kinds, and love putting them together in playlists that help me build memories. Often I associate a song or a series of songs to a certain trip or a specific moment from that trip, kind of like a soundtrack to my own personal movie. In these posts I will be sharing the music that I listen to during my travels, from all-time faves to newfound loves and one hit wonder flings. In a lot of these posts you'll find a download link to the entire mixtape for your own listening pleasure. I would also love to hear your music recommendations - I'm always on the hunt for new songs to play when I travel!  


The summer is nearly over and I'll bid it goodbye with two weekend beach trips. I'm excited! I suspect the next few months will be crazy busy, so some summer quiet before the storm would be much appreciated. And what's a summer beach trip without the right music? Thought I'd share the songs that have kept me company throughout summer this year (I didn't have time to make a mixtape, I'm sorry!). What were your songs from the summer?


San Juan Bloggers' Weekend at The Circle Hostel!




 

It's only the middle of the week but already I'm looking forward to the weekend, because I’ll be spending it at The Circle Hostel La Union with a group of amazing travel bloggers. I’m so excited! I’ll be posting about it soon, watch out for it! Anybody else hoping to catch some waves/sun/sand/good vibes in LU this weekend? See you there! :)

Life in Flip Flops: A Thousand Buddhas & Corridors, Bagan, Myanmar





I took so many photos when we went to Bagan, and these are the last of the lot - my final favorites. I love that they're bathed in the orange glow of the Burmese afternoon sun, or otherwise steeped in shadow from within the halls and corridors of the ancient temples that surrounded us for three days.

On our last day, I thought I had had enough of the temples, opting to spend our final afternoon in the cool shelter of our hotel. As the sun set and dusk approached, we rode a van that took us out of the archaeological complex to the bus stop, where we would take an overnight trip back to Yangon. I caught a glimpse of the temples as we drove past and felt a sense of great panic at the realization that it was the last time I would catch a glimpse of them. I don't know why I felt it, a sense of sadness tinged with great regret that I did not spend the time I had that afternoon for one final moment around the temples. It was irrational, and a tad too dramatic, and it was the worst feeling of separation anxiety I have had in any of my trips. I must've really fallen in love with Bagan to have felt that way.


Good Vibes, Good Friends, and Great Music at Wanderland 2013





It's magical, that moment when you're watching your favorite band perform and they start to play your favorite song. In a split second, right after that first note, everyone in the crowd seems to be thinking the same thing, which is in fact nothing, because you all just want to get lost in the music.

Add to that a lot of great friends and good vibes on a summery Saturday night in Manila and you have the first ever Wanderland Music Fest. Because really, when was the last time you laid out a mat on a field of grass?


Where to Stay in Bagan, Myanmar: Bagan Thande Hotel





Bagan Thande Hotel - book now at special rates via Agoda.com
Archaeological Zone, Old Bagan,
Bagan, Myanmar 05232
http://www.baganthandehotel.net/


In a nutshell:
Excellent location, relaxing & spacious surrounds, a bit of a splurge for a backpacker's budget, but worth it!

Rating: 4 / 5


How to Overcome Post Travel Stress Disorder





In my travels I’ve realized that the first day back at work from a holiday is the worst. I’ve never been happy to be back from a trip. There’s relief, in finding my flat intact, or in confirming that yes, I did NOT leave the air conditioner on before I left (do you ever get that feeling before a trip? My paranoid self always does!). There’s relief in realizing that I still have my job. It feels especially nice and I’m always grateful to see friends and family and give them trinkets and souvenirs, and to hear them say they’ve missed me (and then I realize how terribly I’ve missed them too!). But to be immediately happy after that cab ride home from the airport has never happened to me. I go through a lot of separation anxiety after a trip, and it’s usually directly proportional to how epic the trip was. It would take a couple of days or even weeks to get me comfortably back into “the real world”.

Overcoming post travel stress disorder is still a work in progress for me, but here are some tricks I’ve found to be of help.


The Beautiful Burmese: Portraits from Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar





I spent more time taking photos of the Burmese locals in Shwedagon Pagoda than of its massive, ornate structures. I hate to admit it, but at some point in our temple exploration of Myanmar, all temples, pagodas and stupas began to look the same, and I prefer temple ruins and ones that are unpainted and made of exposed bricks to brightly colored new ones anyway. As I made a post about the beautiful locals of Bagan, here are some portraits from our visit to Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.


Life in Flip Flops: Brief Encounters on Our Last Day in Yangon, Myanmar





Our stay in Yangon had been largely transitory, a necessary stopover to Bagan, and our final departure point out of Myanmar when the trip was over. Upon landing at the airport from Kuala Lumpur, we stayed in the capital for less than twelve hours before we took an overnight bus for Bagan. After three days in Bagan, we went back to Yangon for one final day before our flight back to Kuala Lumpur early the next morning.


Pleasant Surprises, Yangon, Myanmar





Before we left for our trip to Myanmar, Mabs and I worried about a few things we had never worried about in our other trips to other countries. We worried about the quality and condition of our dollar bills, having read that the Burmese were very particular about only accepting mint condition US dollars, and that ATMs were few and far between and credit cards were largely unheard of. We worried about not having roaming on our phones because our Philippine providers didn't have partnerships with Burmese providers yet. The fact that Myanmar had only begun to open up to travelers a few years prior seemed to mean, at least from all the research we had done, that there was much about it that was very different from our own country. It was definitely going to be a trip to take us out of our comfort zone.

We visited Burma at a time when it was still relatively Indochina's Great Unknown, the region's Great Undiscovered (this, however, is something that is changing very rapidly). So I was surprised at how at ease I felt almost immediately upon landing in the capital of Yangon. The airport was new and well-maintained, immigration was a breeze and getting our dollars changed equally so. The lady at the tourism booth was exceptionally kind and helpful, and our cab driver was the same way.  The heat was horrendous, traffic was pretty bad, but I could say the same for Manila. Burmese hip hop played through the radio in moderate volume while I looked out the window of our cab to gain my first impressions of Myanmar - my first real, authentic impressions, the ones I made for myself, with my own eyes, and not from the stuff I read or heard from others.

Travel is inherently related to perspective. Even a routine road trip to a beach you've been to so many times since your childhood can have an effect on how you see things. Imagine then how flying to a mysterious, mystical and newly welcoming foreign country can change you. All the stuff you've read and heard won't do it justice, this post you're reading won't do it justice, because the perspective you will gain from actually seeing the place for yourself, for actually being there, will be unique and will only be completely true for you and you alone. 

For every worry I had about coming to Myanmar, the country seemed to have a pleasant surprise waiting for me to defy it. Within only a few hours upon landing, my anxiety-filled view of coming into this new, foreign place had been pretty much washed away by the joy and excitement of being in a strange new environment and meeting its inhabitants. In the crazy Burmese heat, I learned to relish in pleasant surprises.



Travel Guide: Seoul, South Korea






This is the first of (hopefully) many travel guides to some of my favorite places in the world. 

It was the KPop, and probably the kimchi as well that did me in: I love Seoul. I love how vibrant and lively it is, how big and bold and distinctly urban it is, but at the same time how it can also be quaint and creative. I've only ever been to Seoul twice, but have explored it enough to be able to compile a fairly comprehensive guide on what the South Korean capital has to offer (beyond flower boy singers and fermented vegetables, if you're not into those as much as I am).


Around the World in Teacups






It's summertime in the Philippines, which means it's about time we all do some traveling! I've just gone on our annual family trip to the beach and have only recently gotten back from Myanmar with Mabs, which means I won't be going away again anytime soon (until June, when we head out to El Nido, Palawan. Super exciting!).

In any case, I recently attended the Traveling Teacup Event by Lipton, where they shared plenty of ideas on how to experience the world in the comfort of your own home, with only a teacup in your hand and five unique drinks inspired by different countries around the world. So if you're staying home for the summer, read on for some tasty recipes from Lipton Philippines that will surely add some worldly fun and flavor to your summer staycation!

 Read on to find out how a cup of tea can whisk you away to these exciting destinations!

Life in Flip Flops: Summer Road Trip to Subic Bay





Last summer I drove to Subic Bay with Carmeli and Mabs for a quick getaway to the beach. We didn't do much except lie around in our picnic blanket, take an occasional dip in the warm water, eat chips, and read through Carmeli's many issues of Cosmo. It was a great way to escape the city for a day, and the drive was a breeze - this, considering I literally had no sleep the night before (I had two engagements I couldn't get out of that ended way later than I expected - okay, I partied).

I particularly enjoyed driving into the sunset as we headed back for the city, recharged and refreshed, with some good music playing in the background (a bit of KPop and Michael Alvardo's "Slow Love" for good vibes). Nothing like a relaxed drive across empty roads and pretty scenery after a day at the beach with life-long friends.


7 Essential Travel Skills






Traveling isn't only a great adventure, it is also a momentous, potentially life-changing undertaking. Whether you're going on a simple week-long excursion to a neighboring country or spending a year of round-the-world travel, it's important to equip yourself with skills that will help make your journey more meaningful and memorable. You might already possess some of the skills listed below, while others you might learn along the way.

In your trips so far, what skills have you found especially useful?


10 Must-See Temples In And Around Old Bagan, Myanmar (+ A Fairly Relaxed 3D2N Bagan Itinerary)






Two nights spent in transit without a decent bed to sleep on, two flights across three countries, hours at the airport and a nearly 12-hour bus ride - everything was worth it when we climbed up our very first temple in Bagan to catch our first sunrise in mystical Burma. 

We spent our 3 days in Bagan, Myanmar exploring thousand year-old temples, moving from one place to another on foot, on a horse cart, and on rented bikes. The experience was magical, and I wish we could've stayed longer, but as it always does on short term travels, the real world, my desk at the office and 200+ emails waited eagerly for my return, so 3 days (net of transit and a short stay in Yangon, the Burmese capital) were all I could spare. Regardless, it was enough for us to explore the main temples in and around Old Bagan fairly leisurely, with afternoon naps and daily dips in the hotel pool on the side (we stayed in Bagan Thande Hotel, which was at the heart of Old Bagan. Review coming soon!)! Read on and discover the ten must-see temples in and around Old Bagan, and a fairly relaxed 3 days and 2 nights itinerary that covers all ten temples (and a few more).

The Beautiful Burmese: Portraits of Bagan Locals, Myanmar






In my previous travels I've enjoyed taking photos of beautiful scenery, quaint streets, mundane details of everyday local life, even marine life, but I've always felt lacking in my skills when it comes to taking photographs of people. I always attempt to take photos of the interesting individuals I chance upon when I'm on the road and have posted about my efforts once or twice, but I've always felt that I could be better at it. So before my recent trip to Myanmar, I told myself that I would make a conscious effort to take photos of the interesting individuals I would meet in my exploration of mystical Bagan.

I couldn't have chosen a better country to take on this personal challenge. The people of Myanmar are lovely - simple, sincere, and friendly, they are a joy to photograph. In the dusty orange-brown landscape of Bagan, the locals' bright and warm smiles stand out with their thousand-old Buddhist temples in the background. Monks in their red robes, men confidently adorning their longyi (it takes a real man to wear a skirt), women with thanaka on their cheeks and flowers in their hair, and children with smiles in their eyes. Below are a my personal favorites of the photos I took of the beautiful Burmese people, with a little bit of a story in each of them.

Flashpacking for Females Part 2: Practical Items to Pack for the No-Frills Female Flashpacker





 

They're not exactly bare necessities - you can definitely travel without them, but the practical items you'll find below can definitely make your trip more comfortable and help keep you looking fresh and presentable even while on the road. In my few years of traveling, I've come to find these items especially handy when we rough it out on long land trips, back-to-back flights and when we stay in hostels and guest houses.

What practical items do you carry around with you at all times during your trips?  


On The Way To Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang (Laos Musings, Part 2)







Note: I've never actually kept a travel journal, and would only write about my travels after I got back from them. But the Laos trip was different - there was plenty of time to think and write, so I did: at the airport, the cafe, on a boat. I had meant to edit my little drabbles from the road and put them together in one neat post, but there's something more raw and real about reading through the actual words I wrote while I was on my trip, so the stuff you will read below is mostly unedited, and nearly exactly as I had written them on my laptop, my iTouch or my phone while traveling around Laos.



Underwater Love: Photos from the Best Snorkeling Spot in Batangas, Philippines






At least once every year for nearly a decade now, my family stays overnight at Dive and Trek in Batangas - although it might as well be called "Snorkel and Eat", if I was being accurate about our main activities there.

The best thing for me about Dive and Trek is how accessible the rich marine life of the area is to a non-diver - even a non-swimmer, at that. You can easily jump off the resort's dock - with or without a life vest - and already view schools of fish and colorful reefs!



Jump in and read more about the world beneath the surface at Dive and Trek resort after the cut!


Dirty White Jazz: Sunset Drive (2013 Summer Playlist)






I drive a white Honda Jazz that unfortunately I don't get to take to the car wash as often as I should. I do, however, love taking it on relaxed long drives, often on my own, with a lot of good music to keep me company - hence the title of this series of posts. I love music of all kinds, and love putting them together in playlists that help me build memories. Often I associate a song or a series of songs to a certain trip or a specific moment from that trip, kind of like a soundtrack to my own personal movie. In these posts I will be sharing the music that I listen to during my travels, from all-time faves to newfound loves and one hit wonder flings. In a lot of these posts you'll find a download link to the entire mixtape for your own listening pleasure. I would also love to hear your music recommendations - I'm always on the hunt for new songs to play when I travel!  



Summer has officially arrived in the Philippines, if the humidity and the heat are any indication. Of course, there are plenty other, more pleasant reminders of this often eventful season - the vacation leaves being filed and spent, all the beach trips and road trips, even the city staycations, and of course, the music that goes along with any and all of these. It wouldn't be summer without a soundtrack, and here is my first one for the year - a mixtape lovingly curated by yours truly featuring remixes and originals from Classixx, Mausi, Tropics, Tuxedo, etc., etc.

Usually I just organize my chosen songs in a playlist on my iPod, but this time I tried to put them all together in one track, which you can download from the link below. It's best listened to on the road at sunset - after a quick day trip to the beach, perhaps? Give it a spin and let me know what you think!


Flashpacking for Females Part 1: A Few (Girly) Pre-Trip Tips Before You Hit The Road






Let's face it, traveling can be a rough, rugged, and filthy activity. Shoddy toilets, long hours in transit, places in the middle of nowhere without the comforts of home - such minor details are all part of the fun, except sometimes it can leave a lady feeling more aimless vagabond than fierce, fashion-forward adventurer.

So what's a girl to do? Suck it up and go with the flow, more often than not. But there are a few tips and tricks to survive life on the road without having to sacrifice one's girly needs (but also keeping in mind not to go overboard, either - nobody wants to travel with a fussy princess).

A key point is to be prepared - you must anticipate that a backpacking trip will leave you a little filthier and more unkempt than your usual self, so it's best to plan ahead. Read on to find out how you can prepare to rough it out on the road and still look like a decent human being (at the very least).


The People We Meet: The Man Who Gave Away Photos, Samcheongdong, Seoul






I love meeting people when I'm on the road. Some end up being single-serving friends, the kind you sit beside on a 2-hour flight and never meet again. Then there are those you end up befriending on Facebook, the kind you keep in touch with occasionally. Whatever the circumstances, wherever the place, however brief the moment shared, I love meeting people who leave an impression on me.

We were nearing the end of our trip to Seoul and were walking along beautiful Samcheongdong when we chanced upon him - a Korean gentleman with his messenger bag, camera in hand and a photo printer by his side, right in the middle of the street. He offered to take our photos and print them for free. Apparently, he spent all day doing exactly that - taking pictures of passersby, printing them and giving them away for free.   

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