On Travel and Blogging

It’s official… I am three months behind on blogging about our South American adventures and strangely enough, I am ok with that.

This was not really the case a year ago when I tried (REALLY tried) keeping this blog up to date every day as we ventured through China. It took me all of two weeks to realize that it was not really possible to do that.

Fine… it is possible, but definitely not optimal.

One of the best/worst parts about travelling is that more often than not, you wake up to a new adventure everyday.

So, sometimes, after a long day of travelling, I would sit over the laptop and try to squeeze some words onto the blog. That, and spending the two hours difference between Jo’s waking up time and mine choosing and color-correcting photos (instead of gaming or catching up on the latest TV shows), blogging just stopped being fun… and actually kind of stressful.

So why do I still blog?

The fame, fortune and glory, of course!

Nah… seriously… This blog was started so that friends and family could keep tabs on us as we traveled around. I think we were seriously lucky that we received some benefits/work opportunities because of the blog, but (not wanting to sound ungrateful), I would not base my next air ticket out on these rare occurrences  Personally, I’m more thankful that the blog has provided us with the chance to work with some amazing organizations and link up with even more inspiring fellow bloggers/travelers.

So, really… why blog?

Growing up, I’ve never really kept a diary (not for any long period of time anyway), but I like the idea of putting down your thoughts for the day at the end of one.

I really think it helps put things into perspective. For us, particularly, it makes me thankful that we are able to do this at this period of our lives… That is why, no matter how many times we’ve been scammed, or how tired we are, looking at things through these particular filters, I’m still glad that I get to be out here pursuing the dream of travelling with my best friend.

And then, of course there are the memories. Even though we’ve ONLY been travelling for slightly more than a year, our recollection of time and places are starting to getting misty and mixed together.

In the movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, the main character, Oskar noted that if the sun were to suddenly explode, it would take seven minutes before the people on Earth would know about it. When his father died in 911, he went on a quest to hunt down the door that a mysterious key left behind by his father would open. After a while, he noticed that he did this partly to prolong that “seven minutes” with his dad – so that the memory of his dad would not fade as fast.

We’re enjoying our time in the sun right now. Trying to squeeze a strict daily blogging routine into our already packed schedule is like worrying about the sun exploding.

Instead, what we do now is take notes at the end of everyday. So, when the time comes to flesh out the bullet points into words, the process of blogging allows us to prolong our “seven minutes” with the incredible places we’ve been to and the amazing people we’ve met.

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In other news, we’ve been featured again by TakeMeToTravel! The piece documenting our adventures through Green Island in Taiwan “Men In Black (and White)” is currently the featured article on the TakeMeToTravel website.

Hmmm… Maybe I really can achieve fame, fortune and glory with this blog….

Taking the Plunge

Well… That was probably the last post from Taiwan… for now.

Next up: South America!

South America as a continent has many of those places that have always been on our travel radar. Getting our asses to South America rates damn highly on our bucket list, so it’s actually kinda surprising that it took so long for us to get here.

One of the main excuses reasons that I gave was that it’s REALLY REALLY far away. And that means expensive airfares and very long travel time. So we figured to make the trip worthwhile, we’d need to go for a very very long stretch of time.

This little problem was solved when I quit my job and Jo decided to take an extended break from hers.

Yet, South America was not the first destination we set off for on our travels.

We told ourselves that we needed to get in the groove of travelling first. That’s why we went for a stint in China, followed by Philippines and then Taiwan with frequent visits home.

All the while, I was telling myself that South America would be next. It’s a long journey, so we really need to take our time to plan it.

Maybe we should take the time to learn a spot of Spanish, since that’s the main spoken language in South America. We could learn Spanish from an audio course while we are spending long hours on the roads!

I’m proud to say that between the (seemingly) endless bus rides and the long cruises on ferries, we now speak fluent Spanish.

Not the whole Spanish language, of course. I mean we now speak one fluent Spanish sentence, specifically:

“No entiendo ¿Habla Inglés?” (I don’t understand. Do you speak English?) (You can tell we have it down pat by the way we are able to enunciate the upside down question marks)

Number of audio tape lessons we went through to achieve this level of fluency? Zero.

Who has time to go through audio tapes when you can climb some crazy mountains, trek through pristine forests, dive in azure waters or just stone out at the amazing scenery outside the bus window???

I know now that it was just more excuses to put off this trip.

It’s strange. I know.

It’s one of those things that I know I WANT to do, but it’s been romanticized so much that I am afraid that nothing I see could measure up to what I have in my mind’s eye.

I’m afraid of being disappointed.

And then there’s the uncertainty factor. South America is not a very common travel destination among our friends, so we really don’t have too much first hand information about the place. Add to that the constant “scares” from concerned family, friends and the media about how “dangerous” South America is – definitely does not help with the anxiety factor. (at this point, I’d also like to give special blame mention to one too many viewings of City of God).

One of the first steps to resolving a problem is to acknowledge that there is one. It took us eight months of travelling to realize that we’ve been making excuses and South America cannot be put off any longer. (re: dwindling cash reserves)

There are some things you just can never be totally ready for. You’d want all the information available and all the preparations you can possibly make, but it is just not possible. There is a point where you really have to just say,”f*** it!” and go along with it. Take too long dragging your feet, and wonderful opportunities will pass you by.

So that’s how, with a song in our hearts, and a dummy “for mugging” wallet in our pockets, we bought our tickets and here we are!

We’ve been here for a month now and I’m happy to say that the song is still in our hearts. (Our mugging wallet was gone within the first week in Buenos Aires) (more on that later).

It really has been pretty AWESOME so far. We’ve seen some really incredible sights and met some of the most charming/adorable people around. Of course, there were times when we felt that maybe we could’ve planned parts of this trip better, but they are not things that we cannot get around. We are definitely out of our comfort zone, but I guess that’s what makes travelling the experience that it is.

You throw yourself in a culture/place that is foreign to you. You live. You adapt. You learn. You grow. And you have a kickass lot of fun where you are at it.

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In other news, one of our entries for Tiger Leaping Gorge “Not Easy” is currently being featured on TakeMeToTravel’s website. The blog was also spotlighted as the Featured Blog as well.

Do take some time to check out TakeMeToTravel’s website.

It’s an AWESOME resource for travelers and has some fantastic photos of various destinations around the world.

I don’t think I say this enough, but thanks for the support, everybody.

Hola Sudamérica!

After our less than brilliant attempt at trying to plan our Philippines trip, we’ve decided to try a different tact for our South American Adventure.

Bear in mind that we’re flying off in a few hours to spend four months at the other end of the world. We know that it’s going to be a long time away, so the planning needs to be very meticulous and detailed. Bear with us as we go through our itinerary with you:

Day 1: Buenos Aires

Day 2: Buenos Aires

Day 3: Buenos Aires

Day 4: Buenos Aires

Day 91 – 95: Machu Pichu

Yeah. And that’s about it…

We figured that since we are constantly changing our plans, we’ll just wing it the rest of the way.

We know that at the very least, we NEED to visit Iguazu Falls, the Perito Moreno Glacier, the Galapagos Islands, the Lake District and Pantagonia along the way. We just haven’t found a way to slot them in yet.

Start of a New Adventure

After China, our next destination was the Philippines.

It was not easy for us to get to the Philippines.

Buying the plane ticket was simple enough. We managed to get a relatively cheap ticket at a rather humane flight time of 9am.

For once, we took heed of our previous experiences and got to the airport at 630 am – more than two hours before the actual flight. As we waited in line for our boarding passes, we actually gave ourselves high fives and chest bumped for this rather uncharacteristic display of adult-ness. As the counter staff started checking us in, we were discussing where we wanted to go for a slow leisurely breakfast.

That’s when the counter staff asked us a Strange Question,”Do you have an onward ticket from the Philippines?”

In the spirit of winging it, we had bought a one way ticket into the Philippines.

The Master Plan was to see how much we would enjoy the place before deciding when/if we would leave the Philippines. Apparently, that is not the way they Do Things… we need to have a ticket out of Philippines before they are allowed to check us in.

Friendly Travel Advice to all: There are many plane ticketing agents in airport terminals.

Friendly Travel Advice Number Two to all: ALL of these plane ticketing agents are NOT open at 7am.

That is how, instead of having our leisurely breakfast as planned, we were frantically tapping into the airport’s wifi network, trying to find an onward ticket from Philippines.

Cheapskates that we are, we were still trying to find the cheapest tickets, so we compared prices across multiple budget airlines.

I tried to plan ahead and gave ourselves until 815am to look for the tickets, so that we’d have enough time to check in.

I was an idiot.

We found cheap onward tickets from Manila to Taiwan via Cebu Pacific airlines, but we forgot to take into consideration the infernal buying form that took a zillion years to fill in (you know the usual crap: name, age, sex, hair color, color of pubic hair, etc…).

By the time we were done with the form, it was 830 am.

The counter for checking in for our flight was closed.

Somehow, we managed to persuade a wandering staff member to check us in (we must’ve looked really pathetic). As he filled in our particulars in his system, he asked us another Strange Question, “Where’s your ticket out of the Philippines?”

WE HAVE TO PRINT OUT THE E-TICKET!!

The airport staff who were not bent over laughing at our predicament hurried us into the airport office so that we could print out our tickets. In the background, we heard someone shouting they’d have to call the pilot for permission for us to board.

Yup, we held up an entire flight. One big tick off the old bucket list.

Now is probably a good time to mention that the only reason we were able to reach the airport so early was because we did not sleep the night before. We figured we could sleep our fill on the flight.

Because of this, both of us appeared outwardly calm while all the drama was happening around us. Everything was happening (for us) in the slow motion manner that only the sleep-deprived would understand.

Thankfully, the pilot was nice enough to allow us entry. We were hassled through security with our backpacks on. We had to endure the death glares of some of the other passengers when we boarded the plane. I don’t think our case was helped by our big backpacks knocking on a few of these passengers’ heads as we walk down the aisle (I cannot confirm nor deny that some of these knocks were intentional).

I’m sure a lot of them would love to have some Words with us, but we totally blacked out once our asses touched our seats.

It’s hard to believe all this happened before 10am in the morning.

It’s a promising start to a fine adventure indeed.

The view from the plane when we woke up. I’m sure this would all be worth it!

Mabuhay from the Philippines!

I know… updates to this blog had been almost non-existent for the past week or so. There’s a very good reason for that. We’ve just kicked off the second leg of our tour and spent the most activity packed week and a half in the Philippines.
One of the things we did not bitch enough about our trip to China was how cold we always felt. Somewhere along the way, we decided to head to warmer climates, preferably with beaches and activities that don’t require us to wrap ourselves in ten layers of clothing.
And since Fortress USA threw a giant monkey wrench in our plans by not granting us our visas to Hawaii and the US, we decided to spend all the time initially planned for Hawaii in the Philippines instead.
After a bit of research, we came up with a travel plan that would see us speeding overland from Cebu to Manila in 3 weeks (no flights).
Our plan is as follows:
Day 1 – Cebu (Straight to Bohol?)
Day 2 – Bohol (Hinagdanan cave?) (buy tickets to Siquijor)
Day 3 – Bohol Whale and Dolphin
Day 4- Morning Ferry to Siquijor via Dumaguete
Day 5  – Siquijor Dive
Day 6 – Siquijor Dive
Day 7 – Morning ferry to Dugamuete (buy tickets to Bacolod)
Day 8 – Morning bus to Bacolod then ferry to Iloilo
Day 9 – Arrival Iloilo (Day R an R in Iloilo)
Day 10 – Morning Bus to Caticlan, Ferry over to Boracay (Buy ferry ticket to Batangas)
Day 11 – Boracay
Dau 12 – Boracay
Day 13 – Depart Boracay towards Caticlan for Batangas port (2gotravel). php799
Day 14 – from Batangs port take a bus via Lucena to Legaspi
Day 15 – Legaspi R and R
Day 16 – Legaspi to Donsol (Snorkelling)
Day 17 – Donsol (Swim with Whale Shark?)
Day 18 – Donsol (Rest and Relax)
Day 19 – Donsol night bus back to Manila from php700
Day 20 – Manila (Buffer Day/ R and R)
Day 21 – Manila (Buffer day/ R and R) Fly to Taiwan
I know. What detailed planning right?
This plan lasted us all the way to the airport where we were almost denied entry to Philippines because we hadn’t bought our ticket out of the country yet. Right off the bat, the 21 day plan had to be changed to an 18 day one (cheapest air ticket to Taiwan was in 18 days).
Other than that, the trip so far had been GLORIOUS. We managed to adapt and made some changes to parts of our plan. So we spent the last ten days or so lazing on some of the most pristine beaches, hanging out in bohemian-chic university towns, diving with exotic sea creatures and swimming with the gigantic whale sharks!
I don’t think Hawaii could’ve been better than this. (TAKE THAT USA!)
(Understatement alert!) I’m currently a bit behind on my China blog entries, so I’ll finish whatever I have on China before starting the Philippines chapter. I figured I have another five to ten posts left for China.
In the meantime, here are some teaser images we’ve taken so far in the Philippines.

We celebrated our tenth anniversary together on the impossibly chill Alona Beach in Bohol

Whale Sharks! They are BIG!

Sunset in Boracay