Now I know how does it feel to experience something that you’ve just been thinking about for a long time (almost 6 yrs in the making). It has been a dream for me to go to a place where you just only see it in movie scenes. Well, for me its New York City and also Chicago (the theatre and the bean).
Flat Iron building, New York City
The Bean, Chicago
Since I met a friend who works and lives there it gave me a vision of visiting her and have that desire to finally see those movie scenes by myself. Then when I took Events Management class we discussed about the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. It made me more excited and eager to pray about this trip. Few years after (2013) I applied my visa and thank God it was really an answered prayer. I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving since its the most celebrated season in US and I used to watch films that they serve turkey during this time. This happened few months before my mother passed away. I still remember that she is so happy for me to have my US visa. She said, you will never know why God allowed you to have that visa.
I have plans to go there last 2014 but a lot of things happened. My mother passed away, got busy with work and some concerns. I didn’t have the time to go and after three years (last 2016) I decided to push through with my trip since it is my birthday gift to myself because I just turned 30 and I wanna do something new. Ironically, I did have some hesitations to go (fears, doubts, personal issues, etc.) and this never happened before. Then I realised if I’m going to delay this trip, when is the best time i’ll gonna do it? Do I still have the time to go there? Too many questions but then I made a decision that i’ll step out in faith and just do it anyway.
Then finally, I got a ticket (another story) and was able to finalised my schedule. Informed my friends there that I’m finally coming. By the way, people are asking if I have relatives there and I said I only have friends and an aunt in Chicago. Going there is just a surreal feeling. It felt like it was a long overdue trip that I’ve been praying for. I thought of my mom and my dad. For sure they are happy that I get to fulfil my dreams and faith goals. God has been so faithful ever since the beginning. Took EVA air and I have a layover in Taipei. While waiting I said to God that Lord, I hope that the seat beside me is vacant so that I can move easily. As I board the plane and saw my seat (window side) the middle seat is empty. Yes! It made me smile but what’s more surprising is the lady seated in the same row. She looks like my mom!!!!!! Her height and built is just like her. I said Hi and asked her name. She is Bich, from Vietnam and migrated in New Jersey. Few minutes after I settled down my seat, tears fell from my eyes remembering my mom and reminded that God has been so mindful of me. Small things like this encounter made my heart in awe of Him.
As the plane lowers its altitude I saw an autumn foliage right outside of my window. My jaw dropped (not literally) because I really wanna experience autumn in New York. Again, its an answered prayer.
Friends helped me out for me to have a place to stay. A friend helped me to find a place to stay for my first four days. After that I’m about to do Airbnb for the first time but God is so faithful that a friend offered her lovely home to me. It’s an answered prayer. Suddenly I felt so at home and have that morning routine that we used to drop her daughter in her school. I’m so grateful for their generosity.
Fast forward, my friend who is also a public servant in New York (the one i met 5-6 years ago) invited me to a “Friendsgiving” dinner (they usually do this before thanksgiving). Of course, I said yes because I get to finally spend time with her and meet new friends as well. It was one of the best experience i’ve ever had. I felt like I’m in a movie scene. It was a surreal moment for me. I’m forever grateful. Then finally, five days after its the Macy’s thanksgiving parade. Braved the sea of tourists and was able to get a good spot (thank God for my MRT skills. haha). I am so overwhelmed with the gigantic / building size balloons. It was a festive mood and a cold day too.
Processed with VSCO with a10 preset
This trip is really one of a kind. The people that I reconnected with and the new friends I met made this trip so memorable. They are far more beautiful than the places i’ve seen. I wasn’t able to see a lot because I decided to meet with them and get to listen to their stories. I am grateful that apart from spending time with my friends I had the privilege to witness autumn and winter at the same time. Such a great way to visit US for the first time.
It made me realised that when you take a leap of faith, it is the only way you get to see the other side. It exposed me that there is life apart from what I am doing. There’s gonna be more when you go beyond your self and limitations. God will always be mindful and will never let you down. During this trip I really felt God’s favor and grace. It made my faith grow and believed that God can do great things as we allow him to take the lead. Now, I’m more excited where God will bring me and I just know that its gonna be better and bigger.
Thank you Chicago and New York City for being so wonderful to me. I shall see you next time.
Why solotravel? It’s always part of my bucket list to do a solotravel. Actually, I’ve scheduled it last November 2013 but due to Yolanda I chose to cancel my trip to Taiwan and I’d rather help in whatever capacity that I can through our office. Back then, my mother knew about my travel but I think mentioned to her that I’m going solo (confused… Haha). Few weeks after, my mother passed away and felt like I don’t wanna do it again. Felt so stressed out and I just wanna forget some of the things that I want because I’m still mourning etc. etc…. Making lots of excuses for myself but deep inside of me tells me to pursue that goal. Two months after, I saw a promo going to Taiwan and now I stepped out of my comfort zone again and told myself that I think I have to do this esp I want to breathe fresh air and new environment might give me some encouragement as well. I end up booking myself for 6 full days solo trip to Taiwan. No travel agency but a DIY itinerary. Thanks to trip advisor, air bnb, Google and to my friends who are also solo travelers who inspired me to continue this 1st ever solo trip. Then my much awaited solotravel begins… Timely because I want to rediscover myself, re-align my heart towards God, be grateful of the creations of The Lord and appreciate life in spite of difficulties. So why solotravel? Especially for a woman is it worth it? Is it safe? Is it worth the risk? What are the disadvantages? I’ll try to answer one by one (in my own capacity… haha). 1. It feels LIBERATING Liberate means (from Merriam Webster): > to free (someone or something) from being controlled by another person, group, etc. > to give freedom or more freedom to (someone) Yes! “Sometimes” it feels good not to be controlled by a group or a person esp when you’re on a vacay. You get to decide things on your own. What time will you wake up? Where are you going? What to eat? And what kind of transportation you’re going to take? Well, if you get lost or if you woke up late there’s nobody to blame but yourself.:) you can walk slow or even rush just to see the sunset (like what I did in Taipei). Cowboy style or not? You get to decide alone. I think it takes courage (esp when there’s a language barrier) and maturity to decide esp when you’re in a foreign land. This solo trip liberated me from being to hard on to myself. If I wasn’t able to do everything that I planned in my itinerary, I just let it go easily and resched it. I learned how to slow down and savor each moment by appreciating up to the smallest details of the place.2. You still need to BE CAREFUL and WISE
Solotravel might get you so much excited but it requires you to be more careful and vigilant esp if you’re in a crowded place or maybe if your going far away from the city. Not to the extent of you being paranoid. Just enough for you to be proactive. Don’t forget to have a soft copy of your visa, passport and id. You can also photocopy it. Bring an anti theft bag or pouch that will protect your cards and you can secure your passport as well. If you’re going to visit a province, like when I visited Jinguashin, Jiufen, and Taichung it took me almost 2-3hrs away from Taipei. You need to check the schedule of buses and their trains to make sure that you’ll not miss any of it. I advise esp for the women to take the 3rd or the 2nd to the last schedule in case of any changes and for you to be safe as well. Not to leave after sunset so that you’ll avoid getting lost and most of the people doesn’t speak English.
3. Be FRIENDLY and POLITE During my trip, I felt like that I can easily adopt to a certain culture. Tho, I still need more immersions just to confirm this. Haha Being friendly is good but not to the extent of sharing your life. You still need to know your limitations as a tourist and always be reminded by our parent’s basic rule: “don’t talk to strangers” might help too. Always be polite in asking the locals some questions, where to go? What to ride? Where can I find this? Etc… It’s good that you learn their basic expressions and always smile to them.
I stayed in a hostel and what’s good about staying in a hostel is that you get to meet fellow nomads. Great cross cultural conversations, learning from each other’s trips, history of your beloved countries and they would even give you tips what are the best places to visit and how to go there (first hand experience). Remember, you are an ambassador of your own country and you reflect what kind of country you’re living in. It might change their perspective about Filipinos as well.
4. Will make you more COURAGEOUSThis might be a real challenge for a faint hearted or for people who are dependent but I say, it’s really worth it. Doing solotravel, will make you more courageous and be more independent. For sure, your first concern is, who will take my photos???? My ootd? And how can I bring all my bags? Etc… Haha Funny questions and for sure you thought of it too. People can take a photo of you unless you ask them in a nice and friendly way. We say it in Filipino, “kapal ng mukha” haha. Don’t miss the chance of having your portrait in a nice view or maybe you can bring a tripod / go pro if you want. I brought my happy pod all throughout my trip and would also ask some tourists or locals to take my photo. Eating some delicacies or food during their night market can be super fun. Since I’m not that adventurous about food, I chose not to eat their stinky tofu or other exotic food. Haha that I’m not courageous enough!;) 5. Be ready for a fun filled ADVENTURE You can still have memorable adventures even if you’re on a solo trip. I will never forget when I went up the elephant mountain, it was so steep and took me around a thousand steps just to watch the sunset and the skyline of Taipei I’m the evening. It’s sooooo worth it even if I need to bring the stuff that I bought from IKEA with my backpack. Kinda heavy but it didn’t hinder me to do that one of a kind adventure. Such a magnificent view and time to seethe sunset. It was breathtaking!
Sipping a cup of coffee in Jiufen was a great experience too! You can see the overlooking view of the Pacific Ocean, clouds right in front of you, and mountains are so refreshing. All you can think of is, God thank you for this wonderful experience that I get to witness your creation. Countless stories on how people approached me and talked to me in Mandarin because they thought that I’m also Taiwanese. Funny that I can get to disguise like them but after saying Nihao and Xiexie, they realized that I’m a tourist.:) Solotravel can also reaffirm if you have a sense of direction. Well, you can try not to look at the map all the time and check if you’ll get off the right train station. When people give you directions, do you still remember it or not?:)
****** For me, it brought so much inspiration that Taiwan is one of the nicest places to visit in Asia esp for a first time solotravelers like me. Thanks to my friend who encouraged me to “launch” my first solo trip in Taiwan.;) no regrets! It inspired me to dream more about Philippines. I guess, the patriotic inside of me would always say, I hope we have this kind of bus or train system in our country, etc… They’re very systematic, simple, and efficient. I admire all their signages and information that they provided not only for the locals but to the tourists as well. Solotravel will renew your perspective about traveling. Sometimes it’s also fun to be alone. Take note, “sometimes”… Haha It could give you a time to think, recharge, discover yourself more, make new friends, appreciate life and God even more.So take that leap of faith and check it to your bucket list. At least, once in your life you can proudly say to yourself that you did something different. It’s worth the risk!;)
Our last full day in Batanes… Sad but excited! Tho, the weather is different from yesterday bec it’s a cloudy day. This didn’t stop us from enjoying our day.
We left our hotel around 800am and our itinerary is to go to the Southern part of Batan.
First stop: Chawa View Deck
Great way to start our day! With a strong cold wind we still went down and watch the waves in front of our eyes.:)
Don’t come closer bec you’ll get wet unless you wanted to…;)
Don’t be tempted to jump bec the rocks are quite rough ESP for cliff diving. Haha;)
Then time to do some road trip and our destination: Mahatao
When you visit Mahatao, don’t forget to visit the Blank Book Library beside the Mahatoao church. You can choose any of the books and maybe write a letter or message that you can also check when you visit Batanes again. Remember the book number.:)
Me and my friend Mylene doing some PlanaForma pose while waiting for the other tourists to finish their picture taking but it seems like they’re taking forever to finish. Thats why i wasn’t able to take a photo of the whole house… Pfffft!:)
Finally, we get to visit the one of the most famous attractions in Batanes, the Honesty Cafe. You just choose what to buy, write it down the log book, drop your payment. Take note that you need to give an exact amount bec no one can give you a change.
You can buy some local products but not too much. Im quite surprised that they don’t offer more local food there and homegrow coffee but Cong. Abad explained it to me why when I was able to talk to her during our flight back to manila.
You will be amazed on how hospitable the locals are even the kids would say hi or greet you anywhere. It seems like they’re trained to do that but I guess its their nature to welcome the tourists with a happy face…
Traveling makes our hearts beat faster and even jump because of so much happiness!
Time for lunch and when we knew that were going to eat in Marlboro Country, we can’t help it but to be excited…
Cant resist to stay for couple of minutes even if its kinda windy and super cold!:) I can hear the wind blows and thank God that I’m not too thin because I might be blown away! LOL
Its more FUN in the Philippines!!! Yes! you’re in the Philippines and not in Switzerland or some other country…
For our last stop, we visited the Boat Shelter Port, wherein the boats can dock during bad weather. It provides a safe place for them to keep their boats from being ruined by the waves and wind.
Whoooot! All set for our second day. Woke up around 430am to prepare for our island tour in Sabtang. We had breakfast in our hotel and left at 615am to go to the port since we the boat will leave around 700am. I told to myself that I will drink a medicine (bonamine) but for the sake of being sure I took one. The waves are not that strong but if you have motion sickness just be ready since it might get a lil bit rough in the middle of the sea.
We arrived in Sabtang almost 800am (30-45mins boat ride). Were fetch by our own cute lil van like a surfer chic van and ate Juliet our tour guide accompany us as well.
Tip: you can wear your swimming attire in case you want to have some dip in the ocean but be cautious with your time ESP when you’re doing a day tour only. You don’t want to miss your boat since they only have one schedule going back.;)
Oh! Helloooo white sand and this natural arc made of stones will welcome you right away!
Were amazed on how they preserved this community.
It made me feel that I’m in a different time. Their traditional house are built in a way it can stand a storm or even a tidal wave. Their main house, kitchen and even bathroom is separated to one another.
We’ve met Lola Marina, she’s 88years old and she weaves Vakul (women’s traditional head gear to protect from sun and even rain). She said that it’s the only thing that she can do since she cannot go up to the mountains.
The people in their community are hospitable even the children get to smile whenever you’ll ask them that you’ll take their photos (I guess, they’re also used with a lot of tourists asking them to smile to the camera)
Our tour guide made sure that we’ll enjoy this place that’s why we let other tourists go here first and we made this in the middle of the day. And we said to her that it’s a good decision bec were able to savor the place as a group alone! We bought some buko juice for the store along the road before going down and up to see the whole view.
We didnt mind the trail again even if its quite high. Its all worth it! One of the best place ever!!!!!!! The very picturesque scene is unbelievable coz I feel like I’m in a different part of the world but the more I felt so in love with the place. The cliff, mountains, cool breeze, white sand, and the sound of the waves are really taking my breathe away. I can’t get enough of this kind of view. One of a kind experience!
Thank you ate Juliet for our wonderful photos (group and solo)…;) you made our trip more memorable!;)
We left Sabtang by 1:00pm bec they’re monitoring the weather and glad that the coast guards are there to check the boats and made sure that everyone is safe. Again, I took my medicine since I don’t wanna risk being sea sick (tho, I don’t have one. Just to be sure…). The waves are different since its kinda rough unlike in the morning but still manageable. It’s funny that some of the elders get to scream like they’re in an amusement park. Hihi we just slept in the middle of it.
We went back to the hotel early and rested for few hours. We went to the town proper bec my friends will attend church and I get to have sometime alone. Went to the canteen near the church (in the capitol area) and tried their famous noodles.
>>>Dinner we tried this new italian restaurant few mins away from our hotel. They only serve pizza but I say it’s delicious but the service is quite slow bec I think they only have 2-3 staff in the restaurant.
I’m still excited for what is in store for our last full day in Batanes….;)
***TIP: plan your Sabtang tour on the 2nd day of your trip since they only have one boat trip everyday. It will be safe for you in case your boat will not be permitted to go back due to some bad weather situation.
It’s been years since I’ve said to my self that I will go to Batanes and even placed it to my bucket list. Yes! This may sound familiar for you because I know that as you read this Batanes is also included in your travel goals. Thanks to my friend and workout buddy mylene who asked me last yr if I wanted to join her version 2.0 in Batanes since it will be her 2nd time there. Of course, without a doubt I said yes!
This is my first travel for this year and after what happened last december, I’m excited to have a break. Somehow I badly needed a new environment even just for a couple of days.
Last March 7, 2014, finally! I’ve set my feet to this wonderful place. I’ve read so many blogs and asked friends who went there as well, suddenly it created so much expectations. I prepared my Dslr, adventure camera, tripod, happy pod, travel journal (surat journal) and most of all my happy feet with good vibes.
We took PAL 2P84 flight MNL-BASCO, 6:00am and we arrived around 7:45am. Their beautiful airport with boulder stones, fresh air, tarpaulins of their well known tourist spots, and smiling locals greeted us. And I said to myself, This is going to be a great vacay!
Originally, we’re booked in Batanes seaside lodge since my friend checked in there last yr. but then, suddenly their staff told us that they’ll moved us to another hotel coz our travel agent had some miscommunication with them. Oooops! Of course were disappointed and told them to fix this problem asap. Since we lack some sleep and eager to have some rest before we start our tour for the day. We decided and accepted their offer to transfer to Batanes Resort. Then we realized that we have a better accommodation there since we got one cottage with two separate rooms and it’s a restored storehouses in Basco. Yay! We treat it an an upgrade and favor.
Batanes resort was run by their department of tourism and now it’s their LGU who’s in charge of maintaining it. They only have 6 cottages (total of 12 rooms) named after their 6 towns in the province. With the view of hills, sea, and the refreshing sound of the ocean is really relaxing.
We started our tour for the 1st day around 1:00pm. Kuya Wilbert, our tour guide fetch us to the hotel to bring us to the Northern Part of Batanes:
This is one of the most high end hotel in Batanes and you can see the artworks of Pacita Abad the first Ivatan artist who was able to brought her master pieces all around the world.
Enjoyed walking and seeing big andesite rocks along the beach but we can’t stay super close bec of its waves. This place is sooooo beautiful. I think i can seat there all day while reading, listening to some relaxing music and drinking some coffee. Since its facing the Pacific ocean, expect to see some beautiful waves.
*dont forget to take a panoramic view of the beach and if you’re into yoga, do some of your favorite yoga poses for a memorable shot.;)
This place blew me away!!! Apart from its trail that’s quite high but I didn’t mind it bec of its scenic view of the ocean, Mount Iraya, and of course the rolling hills. My jaw dropped (not literally! Haha) bec I didn’t expect that I get to be on top of a hill and one of a kind of view in the Philippines.
****our guide told us that there’s a fiesta in their barangay and we teased him if we can eat in their place for snack. Suddenly, he told us that his tita prepared food and were welcome in their house. We’re surprised and quite shy as well. But hey, it’s a Filipino way of being hospitable and they said that they’re happy to see tourists visiting their province. Thank you to the Castillo family for welcoming us into your home and let us tried your delicious food.:)
(located in Batanes National High School near the Capitol)
We’re so glad that we get to have some history background about their culture and traditions explained by Mr. Arn, history teacher in BNHS. I hope and pray that you get to have a separate location to have a museum bec your province has one of the most richest culture in the Philippines.
Again, and I will never get tired of saying this is an awesome place. Batanes has a lot of lighthouses since they’re being surrounded by water. It’s a bit cloudy that’s why were not able to see the full view of the sunset but nonetheless it’s still beautiful.
We also had dinner at the Bunker Cafe few walks down the lighthouse. They served a very very good food there but take note to reserve a day before since they only cater to 50 guests.
***(I will post my gastronomical experience in Batanes separately)
>>>Actually, the first thing we’ve noticed that the grass of the hills are so trimmed and with my curiosity I didnt hesitate to ask our tour guided how come it’s well trimmed? He said that bec they use a natural way of maintaining it. They let their cows, horses, or even goats to eat the grass and tada they’ll have a well trimmed grass.
We have lots of impromptu moments with our first day but as they say that traveling is all about enjoying every detail of it and meeting new people makes your journey a memorable one. Wrapping up our first day with so much happiness and still expectant for the next day in Sabtang…