Saltwater Musings : Siargao

When you’re a wahine stuck in the city and programmed into a daily routine, you begin to crave for the ocean. Once you notice with every glimpse in the mirror that your tan lines betrayed you and decided to disappear, you begin to crave for the ocean even more. With each passing day, the craving intensifies and the only way to satisfy them is by watching your surf videos that your lovely friends captured from eons ago. You know that things have gone bad when day in and day out, all you can think of are long rides, sunsets, stoke, surf, sand, and sea. This is when you become thankful for friends who invite you to Siargao for a surf/soul searching trip (thanks, Liz).

Siargao is probably the best surf spot I’ve been in. I’ve heard about it from surfer friends and I can remember painting mental images of the place based on how they described it. I used to be scared of surfing in Siargao because of the reefs and what they call “professional waves”.  I am far from being a professional surfer. The biggest wave I’d dare ride is only six feet high and that’s after convincing myself that the worst thing that can happen to me is a wipe out. Siargao always gave me a combination of fear and excitement that whenever I thought visiting it before, I’d chicken out. I guess it’s true that there’s beauty in timing. I think if I went there before, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.

It’s only been a week since that epic Siargao trip and all I can say is I never left. Yes, I’m physically back in the city but everything else is still there, riding those waves, enjoying the good vibes, and staying stoked. That place gave me so much and I’ve only been there for six days. I got to be in my element again, and it was humbling to know that six months without surfing brings you back to square one… at least for the first two hours of your mini reunion with the board and the ocean. It was frustrating that I couldn’t catch a wave, that I kept falling, and that I was being robbed of patches of my skin because of the reef underneath. However, it was also very fulfilling when after approximately two hours of not giving up, I finally got that long ride that was enough to keep me stoked until the next day. The next two surf days were about learning how to do the frontside and the backside which were both challenging at first.

backside

superbend

We also chanced upon fellow surfers (Xave, Pia, and Mico) who were also there for vacation. We went island hopping to see more of Siargao on our second day and it really is beautiful. It’s sad to see that there are buildings being constructed after almost every kilometer. There are hotels, condominiums and resorts, claiming the place as theirs when it really isn’t. Everyone wants to own a piece of the land. Everyone wants to own a piece of paradise and its alarming. The locals say that Siargao has changed so much since it became popular. Its spot on the list of the popular surf destinations worldwide has its good and bad side and everyone’s just dealing with it. My only prayer is that they get to preserve its beauty.

lizxave

 

The ocean lent its ears to oohs and ahhs as our boat docked from one island to another. The waters were clear as crystal, it was fun to dive and be all mermaid-y without having to worry about landing on someone’s trash. The corals had were painted with a beautiful symphony of colors, it was hard to focus on just one. There were fishes of different shapes and sizes that swam in distances both far and near- depending on who was brave enough to touch the human skin. The salty Siargao breeze was filled with our laughters, jokes, and tricks with the GoPro. There were moments when we would randomly burst into song or dance once a good song plays in Spotify. Our day would end with the obligatory Monopoly deal where everyone’s competitive side showed.

(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes
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(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes

Liz and I did a lot of walking during our stay and this allowed us to explore the resorts in the area. Of all the resorts we’ve been to, Hotstpot stood out because they were very accommodating, the interiors were nice, and it had the ambiance that we wanted. Before surfing, Liz and I went there to hang out, order some drinks, and watch surf movies. Hotspot also offers board and GoPro rentals for Php 500/day which is really cheap! Their sexy chicken is a dish worth trying after an epic session. I give it two thumbs up!

The last day. :( (c) Hotspot
The last day. 😦 (c) Hotspot
(c) Hotspot
(c) Hotspot

Notes:

1) Respect the locals.

2) There is no ATM, so make sure that you have enough money. Meals cost around Php 80 – Php 130 but they have big servings, so it’s like having two meals in one.

3) You have to bring small bills since they almost always don’t have change.

4) The airport transfer will cost you around Php 300.

5) Go out and explore the island. There’s so much to see!

6) Think twice before accepting beer or any alcoholic beverage from people.

7) There’s a yoga session at the tower every 9:30 in the morning.

8) Be sure that your USB has enough disk space (17 gigs) so you can copy your videos from Hotspot’s GoPro.

9) Brace yourself for lots and lots of walking.

10) Enjoy each surf session and if you can, wait until the sun sets on the horizon.

Siargao is a paradise. It’s a great place to get lost in. You bask in its wonder and thank God that there’s a place like it in a country that’s fascinated by constructing giants in the concrete jungle. It’s a place that welcomes you with a warm embrace and gives you a heartache once the day of your departure draws near. You meet people from all over the world, speaking different languages, molded by different cultures, united by one thing : surfing. Okay, some just lay down and pray to the heavens that they get tans instead of freckles but you know what I mean. Siargao heals you in ways you can never imagine. It gives you picturesque sunsets that make you close your eyes and thank God that you witnessed that. It gives you ride-worthy waves that bring you from the line up to the board walk. It gives you locals who are nice enough to lend you a helping hand when they sense that you’re having trouble. It blesses you with the opportunity to know more about your teammate/travel buddy/friend who’s just as game as you are to explore the island and brave walking down dark streets since there are no street lights as of writing. Most of all, it gives you a chance to breathe, to take a break from the city’s fast-paced lifestyle. Siargao is a beauty, and I will forever be thankful that I ended my 6-month streak of no surfing in that island.

I leave you with this video that my friend Xavier D’Souza made. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Kissing the Sky

I’m back from my hiatus! Yay! If you’ve been dropping by this site and keeping yourself from sending me a pm or an email because I failed to update for the past few weeks, then I’m really sorry. My hands have been very busy with work, crafts, and the furball that at the end of the day I’m physically and mentally drained to blog. Sounds like an excuse, but it’s the truth. Still, I’m back and yes, I have an entry for you. Thanks for visiting this page, by the way. Most of the time I’m clueless about who the readers of this blog are so I just put in stories that I feel a lot of people can relate to. Since I’ve been MIA for quite some time, allow me to share with you an exciting story. I conquered my fear of heights last summer!

My jaw dropped when my mom told me that we’ll be paragliding. The immediate image that entered my head was a zip line but of course we know that’s different. We were in General Santos City and we were picked up by Titoy of Sarangani Paraglide that morning so we don’t have to worry about finding our way to the venue. After thirty minutes, we found ourselves in Maasim, Sarangani. I was still calm that time, but when Titoy showed me the mountain that we’ll be climbing for take off, the butterflies in my stomach turned into bats and I wanted to back out. I jokingly offered that I’ll take everyone’s picture instead, but then I figured, it’s going to be a sad story if I tell everyone that I went to Sarangani to back out. I admired Tita Mags and Tito Jojo who volunteered to go first. It was fun watching them and though I was still scared, seeing how easy it was for them gave me courage. I thought I was fine but as I was nearing Titoy, my tandem pilot, I was scared again! He assured me that everything will be fine and after just a few minutes of freaking out, I was ready to start. The first attempt was a failure because I ran towards the wrong direction. We had to function like planes and run fast towards the edge of the mountain and just let the glider do its thing. Titoy asked his assistant to help me because it was very hard for me to run against the direction of the wind. I was told to run without looking down and I did. Before I knew it, I was running on air! Once seated comfortably, I began to enjoy my first paragliding experience.

Paragliding4 It was nauseating at first and according to Titoy, it’s because it’s my first time. I screamed to release the fear that I was feeling while forgetting that everything was captured by the GoPro. We went high, we went low, and the view was breathtaking.

Paragliding15

 

Photo by Mags Maglana
Photo by Mags Maglana

 

The ride lasted for an epic ten minutes. I think for the remaining the nine minutes I forgot about my acrophobia. I was too busy looking for nice GoPro angles to make sure that everything is captured on video and having Titoy answer my questions about paragliding. I was a bit sad when I was told that we’ll be landing in a few minutes, but I did raise my fist in the air when I saw my mom, Tita Mags, and Tito Jojo.

Paragliding39

 

My not-so-smooth landing
My not-so-smooth landing
A different kind of stoke. :)
A different kind of stoke. 🙂

It felt great to face my fears and experience a different kind of stoke. I guess sometimes we focus way too much on exaggerating our fears when in reality, it’s just a matter of letting things flow. Though it’s tempting to chicken out once fear rises, it’s still best to be brave and conquer our fears. Except for snakes, that’s a different story. 🙂

There are two fly sites in the Philippines: Cavite and Sarangani. The flying season in Cavite is from November to April while in Sarangani, it’s the whole year round. It’s important to come early to make the most out of the experience. As surfers wait for the perfect wave conditions, paragliders wait for the perfect wind condition to make sure that the wing will fly properly. They are certified tandem pilots and they want to make sure that their passengers are safe while enjoying the experience.

Some tips for those who want to try paragliding:

1) Wake up early and make sure you just the right amount of food for breakfast. It is not recommended that you fly full because you might vomit.

2) Use sunblock.

3) Wear comfy clothes and rubber shoes.

4) Wear shades.

5) Listen to your pilot, they know best.

6) Make sure that the GoPro captures everything!

7) Let all fears go and have fun!

 

You can contact Sarangani Paragliders at 09228071961 or 09333736871. You can email them at saranganiparaglide@hotmail.com or visit their website at http://www.saranganiparaglide.com. For updates, like them on Facebook.

 

Choose or Be Chosen

I’m starting this entry with a big lump in my throat. I’m holding back tears because it’s weird (and difficult) to type and cry at the same time.  I’m browsing through my journal and the very few photos I managed to take during the Nonviolent Interfaith Leadership Program in Melbourne, Australia and I’m feeling a roller coaster of emotions. It’s a good thing I paid attention to Efrat’s sessions where we were taught to observe emotions and greet it as it enters our “guest house”.

I’ve been meaning to write about my NILP experience but I always ended up staring at the big white space on the computer screen. It’s a tough entry to start because how do you compress five day’s worth of learnings, and epic moments with people from different parts of the globe? It’s challenging but since I feel like it’s a story that needs to be shared to whoever’s patient enough to visit my page and read my entry, here goes:

At a room  with brick walls, high ceilings, carpeted floors and big windows in Edmund Rice Retreat House is where I met people who will forever be a part of me.  These are strangers turned friends who managed to break down the walls I built and see a deep part of my soul. These are people from different parts of the world who treated me like family even if it was their first time to meet me. These are people who experienced what I experienced during the Nonviolent Interfaith Leadership Program 2014 organized by Pace e Bene Australia.

A threshold of stories, self discoveries, and God-given gifts. This room was our shared space for five days.
A threshold of stories, self discoveries, and God-given gifts. This room was our shared space for five days.

On the first day, we were welcomed through a ceremony where we touched soil that ancestors from thousands of years ago walked on. The soil was warm underneath my ice cold palm. We then faced the Yarra River with palms facing the clouds and breathed in the cold Melbourne air. We didn’t talk much and I liked it. At that moment, I realized how blessed all of us are that our ancestors from thousands of years ago took good care of the land. I hope we do the same for the future generation.

After the simple but meaningful ceremony, we made our way back to the room and sat on the chairs that were formed in a circle. To break the ice, Ann invited us to pass around a ball of yarn while saying each other’s name and country. We held the yarn until the last person introduced himself and by then, we had already formed a web. We placed the yarn on the floor and it stayed there until someone decided to untangle it again and form a ball.

To know more about each other, we were then asked to share with two or three others the origin of our name, people who inspire us, places that inspire us, and our experiences. I was surprised at how much one can share just by talking about the name! It was a very powerful exercise.

Interconnection.
Interconnection.

We lit each candle after each sharing to invite the spirits of our ancestors, inspirators, places, and experiences. I like how it also made us feel that there were more than thirty of us in the room, but not in a creepy way. It kind of gave me the assurance that I may be physically alone, but I have a battalion with me ready to back me up no matter what.

Sessions on nonviolence and self discovery started the next day. There were invitations to do the Labyrinth at 6:30 in the morning but I decided to sleep in since I haven’t had enough sleep yet. Add to that the fact that Australia is two hours ahead so 6:30 AM to them is 4:30 AM to us in the Philippines. We started the session with shared silence and this made me realize how scared I am of it. I hate not hearing anything because my very visual mind wanders off to scenes from horror movies that freak me out even in broad daylight. I also noticed how noisy the mind can be despite the lack of noise around us. After twenty minutes of silence, and a couple more minutes for “check in” we went on with our session. I won’t share the discussions so I won’t spoil anything, just in case you decide to join the program.

We were given plenty of quiet time in between sessions. These were minutes (sometimes hours) that I valued because it gave me the chance to process the discussions. I like listening, but I also like writing the things that I heard to help me process and digest them. There were also times when we’d find ourselves working on the rice mandala, talking to whoever was also there while adding designs. We had plenty of tea time, too. There was morning tea, afternoon tea, and evening tea. I’m not a tea drinker, but I became one. Yay.

Silence.
Silence.
A little bit of everything. These grains of rice hold stories shared by some of us.
A little bit of everything. These grains of rice hold stories shared by some of us.

On the third day, Baqir, Vila, and I went down to the Yarra River to take pictures. Yes, at 6 in the morning. In Australia. In case you’re wondering, it was VERY cold. It was also drizzling. We were hoping for some fog and sun, but all we had was rain. We still went down the river, stopped after a few steps to take pictures, laughed at each other for being silly enough to walk under the rain, and shared stories in between shutter clicks.

Good morning.
Good morning.
The Yarra River.
The Yarra River.
Impermanence.
Impermanence.

We had different night activities. The first night was spent listening to the stories of Efrat and Bagir who both experienced violence but reacted nonviolently. It’s amazing how people who went through a lot are always the ones with the biggest smiles that radiate positive energy. The second night was spent watching short films. The third night, for me was the most intimate and meaningful. It’s a night that I will never forget for as long as I live. The fourth night was just as meaningful because we shared a piece of ourselves to the group. Some wrote poems, some shared jokes, and some shared films that they made. I shared with them “Aliya” – a song I wrote back in 2006. It was the first time that I shared the song with a group of people and it was nerve wrecking.

On the last day, we learned about open space and how it can make a difference in one’s way of thinking. It allows you to open yourself up to the possibilities, and accept them as they come. At around noon, it was obvious how people were avoiding the fact that the program was nearing its end. At around three in the afternoon, we gathered in the circle again to close the program.

Closing.
Closing.

Going to Melbourne to attend NILP 2014 was a big step for me. I’m not exactly open to the idea of travelling to another country alone because that means stepping outside my comfort zone. The thought of having to talk to people who don’t speak my language freaks me out and I’m not even worried about my capacity to speak English. I’m worried about being discriminated, of having difficulty in understanding what they’re saying because of the language barrier, of getting lost, of losing my luggage (this happened, but that’s another story), of missing my plane, and of being alone. God must have wanted me to go because despite all my excuses and reasons not to go, I found myself leaving for Melbourne early last month.

Choose or be chosen. I’m glad I chose to apply, and I’m even more glad that I was chosen. NILP taught me to be brave, to accept experiences (even the bad ones) as chapters of my life’s story, and to be open to possibilities. I learned so much from my batchmates, and up until now I still hold the conversations I had with each and everyone of them in a very deep place in my heart. I’m still grateful that they created a very safe space, that made deep and soulful stories emerge. Listening without judgement. Acceptance. Love. Care. Companionship. Interconnection. Impermanence.

To be nonviolent in a world filled with violence. To love despite hate. To take courage despite fear. To take chances. To step outside the comfort zone. To understand that the world is bigger than the four walls of your room. To take a leap of faith. To be open to possibilities. To accept change. These are just some of the many things I learned during NILP.

Now, allow me to raise my hands, wave them and say, Pace Bene!

 

Surfing in La Union

In a parallel universe, I’m on a surfboard riding the best wave of my life. For now, I’ll have to satisfy my craving for long rides, wipeouts, saltwater, and sand by watching surf videos and looking at surf photos. Yes, I am surf deprived and boy oh boy I’d give anything to surf again… but it’s almost flat season so…. but there are still waves somewhere so… but I need to work on our products… but the waves are calling… but… but… ah, let me tell you about my surf experience in La Union instead.

I rode a van from Baguio to San Juan. In case you’re wondering why I came from Baguio, you can read it here. I was told to get off once I see Sebay and walk towards Fatwave Surf Resort since that’s where we’re booked. Because it was my first time there, I decided not to sleep so I won’t miss my stop. Looking back, it wasn’t hard to look for my stop at all since it was a long stretch of Surf resorts. Add to that the fact that there’s a huge sign in green and white that says “Surfing Area San Juan Beach”.

I was supposed to meet my cousin and two of our friends there but since they went to Tangadan Falls, I decided to go to our room, change clothes, rest for a while, and wait for them. They arrived a little over thirty minutes after and since they were hungry, we made our way to the dining area to grab a bite. I was very thankful that there were baby waves, contrary to what the forecast was saying. My surfer friends would always tell me that it’s always a plus or a minus that’s why I still take risks and pray to the heavens that they’ll be kind enough to give us “surfable” waves. Sometimes the prayer works and sometimes it doesn’t.  At around five in the afternoon, we grabbed our surfboards and paddled out.

Sunset surf <3
Sunset surf ❤
"I'm so happpyyyyyyyyy!!!"
“I’m so happpyyyyyyyyy!!!”
With my instructor, Benito
With my instructor, Benito
Yes please :)
Yes please 🙂

We surfed until it was dark and it was the best feeling in the world. If there’s one thing I enjoy doing, it’s sunset surfing. You paddle out, see the sun on the horizon, wait for a wave, surf, and then paddle out again. I find peace in watching the sun paint the sky with different shades of red, blue, pink, and purple – a perfect harmony of colors before it bids the world goodbye at least for twelve hours.

The group went to Flotsam and Jetsam for dinner and we feasted on sumptuous food while lounging in cozy bean bags and listening to hits from the 90s since, coincidentally, it was Lorraine Lapus’ engagement party that night. Flotsam and Jetsam really gives you value for your money. The ambience is great, the food is excellent, and you get to meet a lot of people. Too bad I didn’t take pictures because I was too hungry. If you want to know more about them, visit this page.

With Fin, J9, and Xie.
With Fin, J9, and Xie.

We woke up early the next day for more surfing. We were singing, cheering each other on, playing with the GoPro, and enjoying rides both short and long. When it was almost 12, we went back to Fatwave to shower, change clothes, and pack our stuff. We dropped by Surfstar to claim our free shirt. Yay! That made the trip even more fun! For lunch, we went to Marv’s house. They cooked sinigang which is one of my favorite dishes. The group hung out for a while and by 4 PM, it was time to go back to Manila.

The Frolic Girls: Koko, Xie, J9, Aliya, and Fin.
The Frolic Girls: Koko, Xie, J9, Aliya, and Fin.

Surfing in La Union was a very memorable experience for me. It was great to be back on the ocean, ride the board, and paddle until my arms feel like noodles. I also met two new surfers :Marv and Benito who are funny, accommodating, and very patient. Should you wish to learn how to surf when you’re in La Union, I highly recommend that you look for them.

If you want to surf in La Union, you can contact Marven Abat to learn about their surf lifestyle packages. For now, I’ll leave you with this video. Enjoy! 🙂

Amihan Skim Sessions

The first time I went to Dahican was last June. I learned about it through a friend’s skim video that forever lingered in my memory. She was trying to show me how impressive the skills of the children were but my eyes were focused on the glassy waves, white sand, and blue water. Oh to ride a glassy wave with water so clear you can see the colorful corals and fishes underneath!

When we arrived, I was greeted by Alantoy who “briefed” me about the place. Turns out the Amihan Boys (that’s what they’re called) have been taking care of the beach for years now. They built a hatchery for the pawikans, they clean the shore daily, and sometimes they dive to check on the marine life underneath. They do it for love, and you should see how their eyes glimmer with passion as they share their story.

It has not been an easy life for most of them, but through surfing, skimboarding and skateboarding, they were able to cope that’s why their free access to these board sports are very important to them. The beach is a playground and a place of healing for these boys. They wake up at the crack of dawn, grab their skim boards and charge. Be it on flatland or on a wave, regardless if the sand is hot or cold, these boys will run, drop the board, and ride until they get stoked.

Dahican beach and the Amihan Boys have become a training venue for our Mati’s very own Sonny “Bayogyog” Aporbo, who won the Penang International Skimboarding Competition twice in a row.  Bayogyog taught himself how to skim and he started when he was only seven years old. He is living proof that if you push hard enough despite the curved balls life throws your way, you will succeed.

I’ve been to Dahican thrice this year and I managed to capture their some skills in stills and in motion. I’m sharing the video (and the stoke) with you. I want you to see how beautiful Dahican is and when you do, I want to ask for your help in preserving the beach. There are people who also want to indulge in its beauty, but refuse to take good care of it. Some would go there on a picnic but would throw their trash anywhere, while jetski riders would ride around the area where the corals are, not knowing that they’re disturbing marine life. I’ll write more about this in the blogs to come but for now, I give you, Amihan Skim Sessions. 🙂

Silver Plus One

Last October 24, I added another year to my age. I was excited to celebrate my birthday this year for two reasons: I get to spend time with my family and I get to surf.  🙂

My heart has been overflowing with happiness since two weeks ago. God has showered me with blessings and each day, I woke up wanting to express how grateful I am, but never finding the words worthy enough to show what I really feel. It’s been some time since I felt this way that’s why I was thrilled to welcome my 26th birthday. Too excited, I have to admit. I had a hard time sleeping because I was so happy.

It was nice to wake up to my mother’s very tight hug. She woke me up at around 5:30 in the morning since we had to leave early for Dahican. We stopped by Cafe France for breakfast since she’s been wanting to eat there since the night before. We were lucky because the place wasn’t full and there were parking slots available. The restaurant staff were very accommodating and attentive to our needs; they even greeted me happy birthday. 🙂

It was already 9 in the morning when we left for Dahican. Traffic not permitting, we arrived in Dahican at 2 in the afternoon.  I was looking forward to having an afternoon surf session, but since the waves were too small, I decided to take pictures of the skim boarders. The way they run, skim, flip their boards and ride the waves is like beautiful poetry. How they do it effortlessly is a mystery to me.

And he's only 11.
And he’s only 11.
Bayogyog Aporbo, 2-time champion of the Penang International Skimboarding Competition
Bayogyog Aporbo, 2-time champion of the Penang International Skimboarding Competition

After taking pictures and teaching my brother the basics of surfing, we ate dinner. The number of people in the venue was starting to grow since the Sambuokan Festival competition participants and event guests were starting to arrive. We had the chance to talk to Alantoy who immediately gave us updates on what’s been happening the past few months. It was nice to see him and his brother, Bochok, again. They’re kind of my surf family here in Mindanao. After dinner, we went to bed since we planned on going dolphin watching and surfing the next day.

Because of the Sambuokan Festival in Mati, all of the hotels were fully booked. Good thing we were able to rent a tent from the Amihan Boys. They set up the tent near the shore which was a good thing. I liked falling asleep to ocean’s lullaby and waking up to the same song. When I opened our tent the next morning, I was speechless. See, this was waiting for us outside:

IMG_4919
Early morning peelers.
Boys in the city jog for miles while Amihan boys skim for hours.
Boys in the city jog for miles while boys in Dahican skim for hours.

IMG_4935

IMG_4930

Langlang, sister of Bayogyog. She's only fifteen years old.
Langlang, sister of Bayogyog. She’s only fifteen years old.

I had my share of stoke that morning too! At 9 AM that morning, after looking for dolphins, our boat stopped at a spot that had glassy waist-high waves. Two of the Amihan Boys were there to assist and they were nice enough to give tips that helped me improve my ride. They also taught my brother how to surf. Both of us were stoked!

IMG_4975
Birthday surf from a different angle.
Sibs. :)
Sibs. 🙂
IMG_5069
Long ride ❤
My brother's first ride. ;)
My brother’s first ride. 😉

My brother and I had our own share of cuts from that morning’s session but we were still stoked. The water was so clear, we could see the corals, fishes,  and sea urchins (unfortunately) underneath. The waves were perfect and the best part was, we had it all to ourselves.

Birthday cut.
Birthday cut.

We stayed at the Amihan Boy’s cottage in the afternoon because our tent was hotter than a sauna. We met new people there, including the youngest of the Plaza siblings: Juan. Some of the younger Amihan boys were there too and they were all smiles as they told us their stories. Some of them came from really difficult situations and according to them, skim boarding helped them cope. It was really good to hear how surfing and skim boarding helped change their lives.

Later that afternoon, Langlang and Jovic taught me how to skim. They said it’s a lot more difficult that surfing but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I really appreciate that they took some time off their skim session just to teach me. I was really moved. I didn’t really do well because I was scared of falling. The board hit me twice and I’m sporting two new bruises on my left leg, but it’s okay. I want to learn how to skim and seeing how it’s done, I know that I will have more scars and bruises.

(c) Bane Agbon
(c) Bane Agbon
With Langlang. (c) Bane Agbon
With Langlang. (c) Bane Agbon

I’m still stoked from my 26th birthday celebration. It was simple, but it was very meaningful. I got to spend it with my family while doing what I love the most. To those who remembered my birthday and took time to send their birthday greetings, thank you so much. My heart is overflowing with happiness and gratitude. ❤

Thailand Diaries Part Two

As promised, here’s part two of our Thailand adventure.

 

River Cruise

Wanting to see more of the city, we went on a river cruise at the Chaophraya River. It gracefully snakes from the north to central region, ending in Bangkok where it enters the Gulf of Thailand. It’s good to go on a cruise if there’s still a lot of places that you want to see but you don’t have enough time.

IMG_1054
Hotels at the Chao Phraya River.
Beauty in the obscure.
Beauty in the obscure.
Temple of Dawn.
Temple of Dawn.
Thai eye.
Thai eye.

It’s interesting to see how the temples, hotels, and other tourist spots come to life at night. We were served with a sumptuous buffet but I couldn’t eat. I was busy taking pictures! I even ran out of memory space so I had to borrow my mom’s camera! After dinner, the host invited all of the guests to dance. It was nice to see how people from different cultures expressed themselves through dancing. Each had their own groove, their own beat. It was really fun to watch.

The trip cost us a good 1,400 Baht but I tell you, it was worth every penny.

 

Floating Market

Have you ever tried shopping while on a boat? If not, then the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi is perfect for you! Items are sold on boats and on river banks and the vendors take turns in approaching/pulling the boat to show their products. There are a lot of good finds here, some are costly, but you can always ask for a discount.

Noodles, lady?
Noodles, lady?
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Water traffic.
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I didn’t know that this was possible until I saw these.

My advice is, if you see something that you want, buy it. I was thinking of looking for the items that I liked in Chatuchak but I didn’t find them there. Also, the trip lasts for only an hour so you really have to be quick in choosing/buying items. Also, prepare $20 as ticket payment because for some reason, they don’t accept Baht.

Jim Thompson’s House

I was really inspired when we visited Jim Thompson’s House. Jim Thompson is an entrepreneur who generated international demand for Thai silk. His creative mind and natural flair for design and color made a huge contribution to the growth of the silk industry. He is the founder of the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Hearing about his story and seeing his collection gave me the affirmation that I needed.

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Jim Thompson has a charming Thai Style House. According to our guide, that house was not only the “talk of the town”, it was also the city’s most celebrated social center. Since Jim Thompson’s disappearance in 1967, minor changes were done to preserve the original design, and to open the house to the public.

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Adorable handle reminds me of hand signs used when surfing. :)
Adorable handle reminds me of hand signs used when surfing. 🙂

 

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Entrance to the house.

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Entrance to the house is 100 Baht. There’s a restaurant on the right side and a shop on the left side. There are tours available in different languages scheduled every 30 minutes. The tour guides are really friendly so feel free to ask your questions. Cameras are not allowed inside the house which is sad because there are plenty of photo-worthy scenes,  and items inside.

Siam Discovery Center

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These greeted us when we entered the mall. 🙂
Propaganda on display.
Propaganda on display.
The display changes when you step on them. Pretty cool, huh?
The display changes when you step on them. Pretty cool, huh?

What I liked about Siam Discovery Center is that it’s not your typical mall. There are art installations located at almost every part of the mall waiting to be discovered, like this 3D art courtesy of Smirnoff:

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After going crazy over the art installations, we made our way to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I was excited because the last time that I’ve been in a wax museum is back in 2nd grade, where I freaked out because the wax figure of Emily Rose (The Exorcist) began to move. Anyway, we had a great time looking at all of the figures. Most of the time, we had to convince ourselves that they ARE wax figures because they looked so much like the original!

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Madame Tussaud

When the tour ended, we dropped by the stall that makes wax hands. The thought of dipping my hand in hot wax was scary and I admit, I freaked out, but once the process began, I was okay. 🙂 They first dipped my hand in ice cold water until it felt numb before dipping it in hot wax. After repeating the process two more times, removed the hardened wax from my hand and attached it to a base.

My shaka hand! :)
My shaka hand! 🙂

We rode the BTS on our way back. We didn’t want to pay 400 Baht to the Tuktuk driver who was taking advantage of us foreginers, and we didn’t want to ride the cab who was doing the same either. Besides, since our Thailand trip was nearing its end, we decided to experience riding a train in another country.

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Imagine how life would be if things were this organized in our trusty MRT.

We were impressed at how organized everything was from ticket purchase to waiting for the train. The Thai people know how to fall in line and wait for the passengers to get out of the train before entering. I hope that someday, things will be this organized in the Philippines.

I didn’t include my Chatuchak adventure because I didn’t take pictures there. I mean, do you really have time to take pictures when there are thousands of stalls filled with affordable goodies in front of you? I had to bring a map with me so I wouldn’t get lost. It was good that I was wearing comfortable shoes because we had to walk the whole day to shop. I felt like I was in heaven, seriously.

We stayed in Thailand for five days but there’s still places that we didn’t get to see! We left with a promise that we’ll be back, if not this year then next. This trip brought us closer as a family, we learned so much about each other. It was really a wonderful experience.

Thailand Diaries Part One

Since it is possible to travel by land to Thailand from Siem Reap, we decided to rent a taxi and cross the boarder.  You can also ride the bus or the train. We had to transfer to another taxi when we crossed the border since the one we rented does not have access. The people at the immigration aren’t big on smiling but despite this, you should still be nice since they have the power to deny access. There are a lot of porters and drivers who will insist that you go with them (especially since they know that you are not from their country and you do not understand their language) so stand your ground, put them in their place and keep calm. There’s a tourism office near the border and it’s best that you seek assistance from them.

Bangkok was a good two hours from the border. On the way, the driver pointed at the structures and shared  stories about them. The driver dropped us off at Bangkok Condotel since, according to him, it was near BTS and Jatujak (one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Thailand). After resting for a bit, we went to Khaosan Road aka Backpacker’s Road.

Khaosan Road

Blurred lines.
Blurred lines.

Khaosan Road is located in the Banglamphu Area of Phra Nakhom district. The road got its name from the word “khaosan” which means “milled rice” since the road used to be a rice market. Kho San Road is known as the backpacker ghetto since it offers almost everything a backpacker needs: good food, great music, funky finds, and cheap accommodations.

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Khao San Road at night
Listened to him play the guitar and the harmonica during dinner.
Listened to him play the guitar and the harmonica during dinner.
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I didn’t want to leave this store!

Khaosan has several pubs and bars. It’s shops sell local fruits, shirts, paintings, pirated CDs, second-hand books, plus many items a backpacker will definitely enjoy. The street vendors sell exotic food like barbecued insects and if you pay them 10 Baht, they’ll let you take a picture. At night, the road becomes a venue for a street party. People from all over the world gather to sing, dance, and enjoy the night. It’s like being in a dream and praying that no one will ever wake you up.

Ayutthaya

We went to Ayutthaya to visit the temples on our second day.  Ayutthaya is about an hour and a half from Bangkok, traffic permitting. A foreigner needs to pay 100 Baht for entrance to the temples. We didn’t have to deal with large tourist groups since we arrived early. We didn’t have to wait for a long time just to have our picture taken plus, we had the luxury of really enjoying the view and basking in the Ayutthaya ambience that had so much history.

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Black bird... fly.
Reminds me of a song from the Beatles

Ayutthaya, located in the valley of Chao Phraya River, was founded in 1350 by King U Thong who went there to escape the smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri. He proclaimed Ayutthaya as the capital of his kingdom, which later on became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai.

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Woody Woodpecker
Woody Woodpecker

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According to history, the Burmese attacked the city and chopped the heads of the Buddha statues in 1767. The remains used to be gigantic reliquary towers and monasteries. The Buddha tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya is very famous because of the Buddha’s head that sits firmly in it’s tangled roots. To show respect, one must kneel or sit down when taking a picture with the Buddha.

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How the Buddha head got tangled in the tree is a mystery. Did the thief who stole it hide it there for safety? Did it fall from one of the statues? No one knows.
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Attempts to restore the Buddha statues.

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There are outfit restrictions. Some temples do not give access to people who are wearing caps, sleeveless tops and skirts that drop above the knee. It is also important to apply sunblock and bring an umbrella to keep the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, especially when doing the tour in broad daylight.

After touring the temples, we went to Wat Lokayasutharam to see the reclining Buddha. It is 37 meters long and 8 meters high. It is one of the largest in Thailand.

The reclining position portrays that the Buddha passed away peacefully.
The reclining position portrays that the Buddha passed away peacefully.

We then made our way to Wat Phanan Choeng to visit the Golden Buddha. This Buddha is 19 meters high and is called Luang Pho Tho. To the Thai people. the statue is a guardian for the mariners since “tears flowed from the sacred eyes to the sacred navel” prior to the destruction of Ayutthaya. This statue has undergone restoration several times.

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Grand Palace

If you’re on a budget and you have to choose between Ayutthaya and the Grand Palace, I say go for the latter. Yes, Ayutthaya is overflowing with history and it is indeed a wonderful experience, but the Grand Palace has so much more to offer.

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The Grand Palace is one of the popular tourist attractions in Thailand. It is located at the heart of Bangkok, and it is a complex of buildings. It was the official residence of the Kings of Siam until 1925. It is used for several royal ceremonies and state functions which happens every year.

There are also outfit restrictions at the Grand Palace. No shorts, skirts should drop just above the ankle, no sleeveless or see-through tops allowed. There are clothes that you can borrow in case you still want to enter (that is, if you’re willing to wear something that’s been worn by people from different parts of the world already). The entrance is 600 Baht (we cringed and backed out) and if you’re willing to pay extra, you will be given a tour guide who speaks your language.

We may not have entered the Palace, but overall, I still had fun. It’s not everyday that you get exposed to another country’s history and culture. There’s so much to see and do in Thailand. The structures are all so beautiful I couldn’t stop shooting! If I keep writing, I might bore you so I’m ending part one here. More of our Thailand adventures in Part Two! 🙂

Sunrise, Temples, and Jaromanoy

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Shirt , Jaromanoy | Skirt , Jatujak | Shoes , Converse | Baller , Roxy | Bangle , Vietnam

All of us have must-haves when it comes to preparing for a trip. For children, it’s their favorite toy, for the resident fashionista it’s the humongous makeup kit that contains brushes of different shapes and sizes and palettes of different colors, and for the businessman it’s gadgets that will help him process business transactions. Since I bought the Jaromanoy shirt last December, it has become one of my travel must-haves. It’s one of the first things I pack when I’m preparing for a trip. I have a certain attachment to the shirt because I believe in the people behind it and I want to share their story to the world. More than liking how the shirt fits me, it also makes me feel like they are with me wherever I go. It sounds cheesy and they’ll probably laugh at me but that’s the truth.

When my mom told me that we’ll be going to Angkor Wat to take a picture of the sunrise, I immediately thought of wearing my Jaromanoy shirt. It’s corny but I was thinking, “ah, they’ll see the sunrise with me”. Anyway, I paired it with a skirt that I bought in Thailand since they compliment each other. The ground was still muddy from the previous night’s rain so I decided to wear my trusty chucks.

If you want to order a shirt/skim board/hoodie or you just want them to know how awesome they are, you can visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/jaromanoyskimboards.