In my line of work, I am plagued with to-do lists, and they are both extremely helpful (they keep me organized) but also frustrating (they never seem to end sometimes!). And with this post I come to you with yet another list, but a fun one: not a To Do List, but a To Go List, with five of my top destination suggestions for 2013.
I have fond memories of all the five destinations I've included here - from swimming through a hole under limestone cliffs into secret lakes, enjoying a candlelit dinner on a balcony overlooking a riverside view, to tasting a sumptuous pork dish that could rival the Filipino lechon, these destinations are not exactly off the beaten path, but are maybe just a little ways away from the regular tourist hotspots.
1. Coron, Palawan, Philippines
Conde Nast has named the Philippines a top holiday destination for 2013, and to that I say, it's about damn time. While the luxury travel publication highlights Amanpulo and El Nido on their feature, I thought I'd include their more affordable neighbor, Coron, on this list instead.
When my friends and I went to Coron in 2009, I loved swimming through a hole under a limestone cliff to reach Twin Lagoon, and going on a short hike to reach Cayangan Lake. We also snorkeled around one of the islands and spotted a shipwreck so near the shore! I will always remember Coron for its natural splendor and tranquility. And the best part? For the entire trip, I recall spending only a little less than Php 10,000.00, including airfare!
2. Hoi An, Vietnam
Finding myself in Hoi An during our two-week Indochina trip in '09 is probably the most serendipitous travel moment of my life so far. Thinking about its narrow streets and quaint stores and cafes never fails to put a smile on my face. It was only supposed to be a short, unavoidable stopover en route to Hanoi from Saigon, but turned out to be one of the most memorable places in our two-week trip.
I can't seem to stop raving about Hongdae. From the very first time that I got to experience it in all its Friday Night, Club Day glory, I had always felt fondness towards this youthful and vibrant side of Seoul. It's definitely not as glamorous and glitzy as Gangnam, but what it lacks in glamor and the proverbial "bling", it makes up for in raw creativity, passion, and a lot of heart. I could probably spend an entire trip to Seoul exploring Hongdae's many streets lined with quirky boutiques and cute cafes.
4. Luang Prabang, Laos
Someday in the faraway future, if I decide to leave my corporate, 9 to 5 kind of life to become a full-time writer, I would probably stay in Luang Prabang to write the most crucial parts of my
best seller novel. Something about its laidback vibe gets my creative juices flowing, gets me oozing words and having them flow like the Mekong River into page upon page. If a place can be an artist's muse, then Luang Prabang is definitely my goddess of inspiration. It's also been a magical fling, a part-time lover, in a most romantic, poetic notion.
5. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Admittedly, the beaches of Bali left me missing the ones back home in the Philippines, convincing me that the best beaches in the world are right in my own country. But what I did thoroughly enjoy in Bali was our day trip to Ubud in 2010, during which my friends and I had a taste of the epic babi guling, a kind of roast pork that's seasoned with all these different spices and flavors that could very well rival our national lechon. There's no need to pit these dishes against each other, however - there's enough room in my heart for all kinds of pork.
Which destinations are on your 2013 To Go list?