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WARNING: This is a picture-heavy post.
PART ONE is HERE.

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Arriving late at night and getting hassled by South Korean immigration wasn’t a good start for my semestral break vacation.

Soon after arriving at the hostel, we slept away our stress into the morning.

This is KC all bundled up. It was 11 degrees outside.

Waking up extra early, we were pumped for the day ahead. Chungjeongno Station was only a few steps away (literally) from our hostel, so that was convenient.

Before getting anywhere, first on the agenda was figuring out Seoul’s subway system.

We purchased some T-money cards (Seoul City Pass) at this high-tech vending machine.

Seriously, Japan and South Korea are well ahead of the west when it comes to technology.

On a side note: Yay for stored-money cards! We don’t have to get our hands dirty when fishing for loose change!

The Seoul CityPass even came with some discount coupons (though we never got to use them).

Wonder when the Philippines will keep up with the rest of Asia?

At most subway stations in central Seoul, virtual tourist guides are omnipresent, such as this.

Awesome.

I remember having machines like this in Singapore and Hong Kong as well.

I therefore conclude that MISSHA is the 7/11 of Seoul subway stations.

I think I saw more MISSHA cosmetics stores than actual 7/11s. Hmmm… Only in South Korea! 😀

Oh, and don’t forget the ubiquitous lingerie shops too!

They’re everywhere! And they’re so…….. PINK. Hurts my eyes. (@_@)

Miss Hydrocephalic Head says “안녕하세요!” (Anyong haseyo!)

After about 10 minutes of eventful walking through the station, we finally arrived at the trains.

We didn’t have to wait long.

Although most of Seoul’s subways are old (built in the 70s and 80s), the trains are fast, efficient and on time.

No hassle.

Our first stop: Itaewon.

It’s supposedly the main district of most expatriates, and although we’re far from being expatriates, I figured it would have many English signboards (duh), thereby making the place easy to locate food joints, which in my mind is as good of an orientation to Seoul as it gets.

Crappy justification, I know.

Most of the time, I’m a thrill-seeking foodie in search of exotic (and cheap!) holes-in-the-wall. They make for the most interesting meals.

But I wasn’t feeling too adventurous then, as evidenced by my rumbling tummy. I just wanted to EAT.

With starving stomachs, we finally decided on……. Taco Bell.

LOL. Yeah, I can hear the howls of laughter right about now. 😛

I am sorry for this uber FAIL first Seoul foodie post, but you have to understand, we were hungry and I just wanted to stuff myself silly with comfort food.

Besides, I haven’t had Taco Bell in a while (reasons, reasons…).

My raging appetite was tempted to order the El Grande Burrito Salad, but deferred to the Lite Beef Soft Taco, Taco Supreme and Chicken & Cheese Quesadilla.

Not exactly the best meal ever, but it was soooo darn good on an empty stomach. Yummo!!

They had the nicest staff too!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Koreans look so cute without even trying.

I’m not a fan of most abstract artworks (I find them to be a last resort for people who can’t draw shit), but these were awesome. Light-hearted and fun. My kind of abstracticism. 

These look like something my graphic artist friend, Megg, would do.

After our Taco Bell smorgasbord, we meandered through Itaewon’s cute hilly alleyways and found THIS charming bakery, which (as we found out) is apparently a tete-a-tete joint for foreigners, yuppies and old Korean women catching up on their gossip.

Fascinating.

I love Tartine’s logo.

The 1940s woman is a fitting emblem.

The place is too lovely for words, ‘no?

The bread station.

The dessert selection left me in a tizzy. So many to choose from.

But my eyes were set on the Rhubart Tart.

It was, for lack of better words, absolutely delish! And I’m not just saying that for the sake of patronizing description. See, I have a thing for random spikes of sourness in my food, and this tart had just the right amount of sweet and sour to keep me digging in for more.

KC didn’t enjoy it much as her definition of dessert is sugar overload. All the better I suppose because I devoured the entire thing myself. *burp*

We walked off the Taco Bell + Rhubard Tart calorie-overload around the rest of Itaewon and chanced upon a souvenir shop called “Rainbow Souvenirs.”

Surprisingly, the “rainbow” actually did mean something significant. The two female owners of the shop were a couple! And they were already in their forties! Awww… I think my heart swelled a little bit just by looking at them.

Homosexuality isn’t generally accepted nor is it a common topic for small talk in South Korea. So it was nice seeing two people going at it (so to speak), despite all odds. I was inspired. Go support Rainbow Souvenirs now! 🙂

We walked to the far end of Itaewon and spotted this hot American(?) army chick in camouflage.

Helloooooo… 🙂

We thought seeing this chick was so awesome. But we soon discovered that military personnel in Itaewon are a-dime-a-dozen.

For what reason, I’m not sure, but I figure it has something to do with the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).

On another note, I wish I’d taken the DMZ tour (but my companions chickened out), so I’ll have to do that another time. More reason to go back to Seoul!

Funny how they’re standing right in front of a Skin Food beauty shop. LOL.

After a few more minutes of walking (best exercise ever!), KC announced that she wanted to do some shopping (which was the most surprising thing I’ve heard all day considering how decidedly unfashionable she/we are).

But with nothing better to do, I conceded.

We hopped on a train and took the MTR to Dongdaemun.

The Dondaemun area is home to South Korea’s largest wholesale and retail fashion malls. And when I say largest, I mean LARGEST. There were no less than 15 mega-buildings in that area alone, all housing shopping complexes with clothes ranging from bargain buys to high-street.

This is the ancient “Gate to Dongdaemun.” Pretty cool.

I literally got cross-eyed just deciding on which building to go into.

That being said, I highly suggest you skip Dongdaemun if you’re not a die-hard fashionista or retailer of Korean-style clothes. This place will wear you out! Save yourselves the hassle.

After about an hour of browsing through racks and racks of merchandise, we started wondering where THE GROCERY was.

We just had lunch of course, but being our usual foodie selves, we were always on the lookout for more chow.

We saw a couple of pojangmachas (small tented restaurants) around the area for hungry shoppers, but there was no sight of any grocery store.

Here’s lola and her pojangmacha.

All plates were wrapped in plastic and overgloves were used at all times. How hygienic. Reminds me of infection control protocols in dental school. Hmmm…

We came and went into about 3 more buildings before realizing that aside from 7/11s, large grocery stores were NON-EXISTENT in Dongdaemun. Say whaaaaat??

Yeah. Apparently the Koreans like to shop for clothes without having to be tempted by fattening shopping sprees at the grocery. HOW SAD.

Well, thank god for random food stalls that made us feel better.

Soon after having our fill of these goodies on sticks, we left Dongdaemun and headed for Seoul Station, where the largest LOTTE Mart (grocery store) in Seoul is (as suggested by a volunteer tourist information guide).

For what it sounded like, we were expecting a pretty big smorgasbord of perishable grocery goods. But we soon found out that South Koreans DO NOT like to eat NOR do they like grocery shopping.

The Seoul Station LOTTE Mart was big, yes, but about 1/3 of its floor space was consumed by cosmetic products (Face Shop, Skin Food, Aritaum, IOPE, Laneige, et al).  Only in Seoul.

KC, who is a chocoholic (understatement), was beyond disappointed at the sheer lack of chocolate and candy selections which didn’t even occupy half of one aisle!

We’ve never seen so little foodstuff in such a big grocery store. Insane.

Personally, I was both amused, and exasperated.

We figured, there’s no use fighting the system. South Koreans are vain, so we might as well hoard all the cheap skin care and cosmetics we can get. Ride the wave, as they say.

By some lucky twist of fate however, KC discovered the BEST moisturizer for her overly-sensitive skin: Laneige.

Now weren’t we just glad South Koreans are SO. DARN. VAIN?!

Later that night, we had our first proper Korean meal at a popular restaurant in Seoul’s University area of Hongdae, which is absolutely picture-perfect at night.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the restaurant’s name because there was no English translation. Sorry.

The place was pretty spartan, but served amazing food. No wonder a lot of people were flocking to it.

Here’s me and my sad, hungry tanga face. (No food on table yet.)

Now this is ME and my happy face (see: glorious food on the table). *drool*

Now, KC and her happy face (…and that big SLAB of meat). Oh daaang.

Enough food to feed a small army.

Enough food to feed our two stomachs.

We are gourmands. Here us RAWRRR.

BEST rice bowl meal everrrr!

The crispy nori strips made all the difference. I still have dreams about it.

With stuffed bellies, we hightailed it back to our hostel for a good night’s sleep.

By the end of the day, we were already making plans of going back. *fingers crossed for promo fare*

Needless to say, Seoul ‘had us at hello.’ 🙂

NEXT UP: Insa-dong, Myeong-dong and more of Hongdae!

 

I’m a big — no, HUGE — fan of pies and pasties. So, being as that my travel buddy and I were in Sydney a couple of months ago, I just HAD to try the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.

After navigating through Google maps, I decided on the Ultimo St. location since I figured it was closest to our hostel at the corner of George and Pitt streets.

We then went off on foot on a rainy Sydney morning, and after walking for what.felt.like.forever (hungerrr is what it was), we came to THIS corner pie shop.

That’s my dorky brother, Shugo, and travel buddy, KC.

Hannah’s?!?!?!

Where the fuck was Harry’s???? I didn’t walk 20 minutes on a rainy day for no Harry’s!

NOOOOO!!!

False alarm.

Apparently, Harry’s goes by the name of Hannah’s too. WUTDAHELL.

Nobody told me I was dealing with a hermaphrodite pie shop!!

Anyhow, I was too starved by then to care about Harry or Hannah and just ordered the most LOADED Pastie & Peas on the menu. *wild boar mode*

Why, hello there. Welcome to my stomach.

It wasn’t as great as I expected (I tend to be unreasonable when I get too excited), but it was quite good  and filling considering my ravenous appetite.

Not content with just something savory, I had to chase it down with something sweet (but of course).

And then came the largest single Custard Tart I’ve ever eaten. Gourmands represent!

The citron notes added just the right amount of tartness (pun unintended) to offset the sweet custard. THIS is how custard pies should be made. Heaven on the lips, pounds on the hips.

My stomach was screaming for a break, but I wasn’t nearly done just yet.

We were heading back to our hostel on George St., passing by Capitol Square, when lo and behold, something caught my one working eye!

HARRYYYYY’S!!!! I could’ve screamed like a shameless fanatic right then and there, but chose not to for fear of puking all the peas I just scarfed down.

I had a cold, but nothing could get between me and my love for (eating) pies.

AAAAAHHH….

….CHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

By this time, I was well aware of how painful of a let-down the famous pies actually were, but I just had to order ‘Harry’s Tiger’ (lean meat pie + mashed potatoes + mushy peas + gravy) and force my gut to surrender to the gluttony — if only for the novelty of it all. So sue me. I’m pie-crazy.

Like the Pasties & Peas I had earlier, the ‘Tiger’ was good, but not exceptional.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s every bit as delicious as it looks, but I’ve tasted better. Blame it on Sovereign Hill’s Hope Bakery, where some of the BEST meat pies in Australia are baked fresh every day. I would go to Ballarat just for those pies. Heaaaaaven.

As I bid goodby to Harry’s, I promised I’d find my way back to Haymarket and have one more ‘farewell pie’ before leaving Sydney.

Sadly, I never did.

Maybe another time.

xoxo

I don’t do road trips. I prefer flying than driving. Yes, I know what they say about exploring your own backyard first before venturing into the world yadda yadda. But hey, don’t judge. I have my reasons.

First, because my father has led me to believe that Mindanao is an unsafe place for travelers, despite the fact that we actually live here(!). Second, because I don’t see how any other place in Mindanao can match the beauty and diversity of what Davao City has to offer. I’ve seen everything that I need to see. Or so I thought.

Yes, I don’t do road trips — but I can’t say I never will. I’ve heard of some really beautiful places in other parts of Mindanao, but I somehow brushed them off as urban legends. I’m stubborn that way. Nevertheless, I’ve been waiting for something — anything — to entice me out of my comfort zone. But so far… nothing.

Until I saw THIS on my friend, Miko Fornillos’s blog. Beaauuutiful… ‘no?

Just look at that cute face. Imagine him/her calling out your name… “Play with me! Play with me!”

How can you not say YES?! Awww… I think my heart just got a little bigger. 🙂

These were all taken underwater at Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park ( a rescue center for dolphins) using 35mm films. Old-school-cool. Hell yeah.

My friend, Miko, has got to be one of the most sarcastic assholes you’ll ever meet (that’s why we’re friends!). But I believe he’s got a (relatively) good head on his shoulders… and he takes AWESOME pictures! Haha.

In the past, he has bugged me to go on one of his many travels around the Philippines. But somehow gave up along the way and just coined the adage ,“You don’t do road trips loserrrr!!!!!”

Hah! Well, this road trip is now officially on my bucket list!

For inquiries about MOAP or other places of interest in the country, please visit the official Philippine tourism website

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Miko is actually a travel agent? You can reach Ares Travel & Tours HERE.

How about you? What’s on your bucket list?


Siem Reap, Cambodia 03/'06

Note: First Part HERE. Second Part HERE.

After a filling lunch at a no-name overpriced restaurant on the side of a road (like I said, all restaurants in and around the area are overpriced), we finally headed off to what most people consider the highlight of Angkor Archaeological Park — the majestic Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is a postcard-perfect effigy. Case in point: it sells more photographic prints than all of the other temples combined. Simply put, Angkor Wat is very pretty, which makes it the rightful emblem on the Kingdom of Cambodia’s flag.

[photo via timeout.com.hk]

Flashback to 2005. This photo, taken by Gordon from Tales of Asia (the pioneering definitive source for overland travel to Cambodia), defined my eagerness to visit Siem Reap and see all its wonders — of which Angkor Wat is at the heart of.

[photo via talesofasia.com]

I turned out to love the solemnity of Bayon’s cocooned towers more, but the sheer expanse of Angkor Wat was more overwhelming. It was larger than life. And I literally felt its weight on my shoulders.

We went in through the outer wall entrance and walked on the long causeway leading up to the epicenter of the the 12th century temple’s five towers (arranged in a precise quincunx).

This is one of Angkor Wat’s best vantage points. It is the million-dollar view that has inspired a million postcards.

However, this was the last time I’ve seen Angkor Wat in all its photogenic glory. The two other succeeding visits (10/’07, 12/’10) left this facade in a state of disarray. Sure, restorations are a must, but could they have at least found a way around preserving this beautiful view?

Four years after restorations began, these unsightly green tarpaulins are still covering Angkor Wat’s front towers. A first time visit to Angkor Wat now, may not be as dramatic as it used to be. Because these tarps will bring you straight back to reality. It’s unfortunate for people expecting to see the postcard-perfect view from days-of-olde, which is no more.

[photo via http://blog.travelpod.com%5D

Occupying over 800,000 square meters, no wonder Thom (our guide) slated Angkor as the last stop. This is not the place for lazy tourists. A one or two-hour walk is necessary to get a real “feel” of the place. It’ll also give you some time to notice the little details carved on stone that are easily overlooked when you’re in a rush.

When I saw the vertigo steps, my face must’ve said it all — “Whee!!!” I wanted to climb it all the way to the top. It doesn’t look like much, but looks can be deceiving. These steps have an almost 70-degree incline. Make no mistake, it’s dangerous — which makes it all the more appealing.

My dad put on a stern look that screamed “Don’t-even-think-about-it!” But I couldn’t be bothered. I was already a few steps up when he noticed where I had gone. Helpless in the scheme of things, he then just took out the camera and snapped away at his (not so) little daredevil, then joined me up the stairs to the higher towers. iWon! 😀

Please note that this is no longer possible. Due to previous accidents that caused fatal injuries and even some deaths, the authorities have now barricaded these steps. For people who want to go up the higher towers, there are designated metal stairs installed beside some of the vertigo steps. You will need to fall in line and show your passport and pass to get through.

Our tour guide, Thom, stayed below while Papa and I meandered through the hallways and towers of the upper terraces. We even met a bunch of European backpackers, and asked them to take our photo.

I love this shot. One for the books.

Sweaty and exhausted.

Gorgeous view from the top with the monks taking a rest down below.

After about 20 minutes, we climbed down the steps — which was much harder than going up. When looking down, the 70-degree inclined barely left sight of the steps below. At that point, I momentarily regretted being stubborn enough to scramble my way up, not knowing how to go down. In the end, we did manage to get down by Papa holding me up as we descended slowly. It’s hard to explain. Haha.

Wasting no time, we then headed to the outer buildings surrounding the 5 main towers of Angkor Wat. This is one of the temple’s ancient libraries, where sacred Hindu (and later, Buddhist) scriptures were kept until the empire’s demise.

Here’s our tour guide, Thom (who I think is half-Khmer, half-Caucasian), explaining something to Papa, which frankly, I cannot remember anymore now. Heh.

I left Angkor Wat satisfied, but with a heavy heart, not knowing (in retrospect) when I will be back. (Note: I did go back — twice!)

But the day wasn’t over just yet.

I still had to satisfy one more thing on my bucket list: Ride an elephant to the top of Phnom Bakheng! Here I am with Nom, my elephant rider for the afternoon. 🙂

Yes, it’s overpriced (US$15 one-way) and touristy, but cut me some slack. It was my first time after all (excuses, excuses). Nevertheless, I hope the people who manage this tourist trap treat their elephants and elephant riders well.

Here’s my “stupid look.” Silaw much. Haha.

Papa, being his thrifty self, decided to save the extra US$15 and just climbed to the top of the hill on his own. That’s how we do it in da ‘hood, ya’ll!

Two days later, we were set to leave Cambodia for Da Nang, Vietnam (which was included in our Singapore Airlines package tour), but that’s another story for another post. 🙂

I wanted to ride an elephant again, but Papa wouldn’t have any of it.

So I just took a photo with Prince D’Angkor’s resident elephant.

Last-minute hoarding spree at the New Market… before Papa came to his senses and withheld the ca$$$h.

Last few hours in Siem Reap. Spot the Philippine flag! Pinoy pride. 😀

So, is this the end of my story? Not quite.

I came back a year later (with my mom and brothers), then two years after that (with friends) — which you’ll be reading about soon.

I witnessed the rapid change of Siem Reap’s landscape through the years since I first came to visit. Some changes were for the better, others I couldn’t care less about. But underneath the superficial make-over lies the heart of the place I’ve always known it to be: a breath of fresh air and a culturally-rich respite from the rest of the world.

Needless to say, I will keep going back for as long as Siem Reap (and Cambodia) is on the face of the earth.

Published: January 31, 2008
A repost from katthenomad.multiply.com

I write. 

Combine raw emotions,
with a vulnerable sense of honesty, 

and you’ve got a winning piece.
I wish I could stay honest forever.

But that’s just wishful thinking.



I draw. 

Pencil. Paper. Portraits.
I’ve always loved drawing beautiful women.
Beautiful people.
Beautiful women.
Beautiful places.
Beautiful women.
Still life.
Real life.
But I somehow lost the drive to keep on drawing.

I realized not everything in life is beautiful.


I travel. 
I go where the wind takes me.

I like the uncommon, the unchartered, the intimidating.
Nothing fazes an adventurous soul.

I wish to become an adventurous soul – someday.
My ultimate dream is to just hop on a flight to Siberia,
backpacking westward until I come full circle.



I love the holidays.

There isn’t a season more hyped than Christmas,

and for good reason. 

The contagious merriment,
influences even the most jaded souls.
I know, for I am jaded in my own way.



I am now left-eye blind. 

It’s been a year since the accident,

and I lost a big part of my life because of it.
But I’m not complaining.


I may have lost my left eyesight,
But I haven’t lost an ounce of vigor for love or life.
I have more than I need.


What didn’t kill me has made me stronger.

With the loss came greater gain,

and for that, I am thankful.

I am healed.

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