I am blessed. Blessed to be able to explore the world, albeit not as extensive as I want to but I’ve had some fair share of adventure and fun last year. So I’m not complaining. Last year was a good mix of local and international travels, small and big trips. Rounding them up, there were highs and lows, great satisfactions and some disappointments. Here’s a run down of my best and not so best experiences of 2008.
Donsol – in pursuit of the elusive whale sharks (Feb)
We were ready to jump anytime but the whale sharks were scarce. There were way too many boats, way too disorganized and so we caught a glimpse of its… tail. Oh well… this calls for another trip sometime in the future.
One Miserable Climb
Mt. Pulag – rained out! (Feb)
We started the trek with just overcast clouds, then it drizzled and when we reached the campsite, it poured. It let up a bit just so we can go to the loo and cook our dinner. Then it started again. Rained the whole night and the whole day, next day. Needless to say, the summit was foggy and really, really cold! No sunrise, just slippery, flooded trails. Good thing this was not my first time here and I’ve seen a glorious sunrise in 2002. But we still had fun.
My Favorite Asian Destination (thus far)
Luang Prabang, Laos (Mar)
The jewel of Indochina and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by mountains at the junction of the Mekong and its tributary, the Khan River, Luang Prabang to me is a city where time stood still.
It was a wonderful 5 days of various adventures. One day was spent trekking to the Kwang Si falls, another learning to cook Lao dishes. There were a lot of walking, eating (Lao and French meals), sunset cocktails and we even had a taste of a traditional Khamu massage. It was fantastic.
A Delightful Road Trip
Viaje del Sol (Apr) – a blend of good food and the arts. From Kusina ni Salud (for dinner) to Ugu Bigyan (for lunch and his potteries) to Carlito’s (for coffee, mangoes and his sculptures) in one weekend resulting to another follow-up weekend. This time, we stayed in Casa San Pablo, checked out Kinabuhayan Café, and had a satisfying lunch at Sulyap Gallery Café, a restaurant cum antique gallery. There definitely will be a 3rd trip to this Viaje del Sol sometime in the future. Perhaps we’ll try a meal at Kinabuhayan Café, try that famous buko pie locals are raving about and do an overnight at Sitio de Amor.
Dolphins Galore at Puerto Bay (May)
Didn’t even know that they had a lot in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. There were tons of ’em. What we didn’t see in Donsol, these dolphins made up for. We didn’t even need a spotter as they were all over the place. Never saw so much in my life. Tons and tons of them. Hope to dive there someday.
A Junk Experience
Cruisin’ Halong Bay, Hanoi (Jul)
When in Hanoi, one must experience cruising along Halong Bay in a junk at least once. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the bay features calm water and thousands of limestone karsts and islets in various shapes and size. Something like Palawan.
A Star-strucked Moment
Dinner at Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Hanoi (Jul)
Even if he wasn’t around, I was excited to be there. Totally am infatuated with this celebrity chef of Travel and Living’s World Asia Café series. And the food did not disappoint. Maybe because I’m so infatuated. Hee Hee! Expensive but superb. Sorry but no photos of the food and the place except from across the street. It was a treat from DBF to cap our Hanoi adventure and we agreed no cameras, besides the place was too dark to get even one decent photo.
Watching the traffic of Hanoi at the Old Quarter (Jul)
We spent hours atop a restaurant sipping beer, relaxing and watching the traffic below with amazement. The chaos of Vietnam traffic just amused us no end. Watch and be amused.
The Best Reunion Ever
A San Francisco get-together with my high school buddies (Aug)… some I haven’t seen in 26 years. It was a trip down memory lane but more importantly, it was literally a food trip as well. Our friend and classmate, JT, now a chef cooked a superb dinner for us! They’re actually planning another one this year… a US trip 2 years in a row is out of my budget if I want to explore other new places as well, so boohoo for me.
A Cove Truly Breathtaking
Anawangin Cove (Sep)
This could pass as my runner-up for the Most Miserable Climb too. I am a clumsy person and more often than not, I fall and hurt myself. So during the trek I was already asking “why do I do this to myself”? when I banged my knee in the course of what I thought was an easy trek. I’ve seen beautiful pixes, read and heard so much about this “not so secret” place and finally am hours away from it. Thrilled and excited as I started the 7.3 km trek to Anawangin Cove, I was 3rd to arrive at the saddle (which had an awesome view of the cove, by the way). Not bad, if I may brag… Many months of lifting, walking on a machine (that goes nowhere), puffing and pushing is finally paying off. THEN… without warning, I slipped and fell about 30 minutes through our descent, all because I was not paying attention to the trail. It was agony from then on. Let’s just say that I trudged downhill, passing rocky streams for another 2+ hours before I reached the camp… From 3rd to last! Thirsty, tired and in pain but dampen my spirits it did not as it was indeed so BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL! Picture this, Agojo (imagine pine trees as it looked so much like it) forest on the beach with a meandering fresh water stream that flows out to the sea. And that is why I keep doing this to myself.
An Adrenalin-filled Birthday Weekend
Rafting the Chico (Oct)
Been doing this for almost a decade but never on my birthday. So that’s new. If you’ve never tried this, you should! You will experience one heck of a weekend, a totally worked out upper body, and the thrill of a lifetime. Contact Anton Carag of AEPI for bookings.
An Incredible Underwater Experience
Mantas and Sharks up close in Yap (Nov)
Amazing… is all I can say. An experience of a lifetime. Read more about it here.